Monday, December 6, 2010

Breaking the Silence, Part 2: Hubby Speaks

Some interesting discussion was stimulated in the comments of my last post, in emails people sent me, and in conversations in the hall. So this must have hit a nerve! My delightful hubby posted some of his own thoughts in the comments of my last post, and I thought they deserved their very own post. I'm a sycophant for that man. By the by, some of you have occasionally asked me what my husband thinks when it comes to the touchy women's issues I write about. I never post anything (unless it's about Christmas trees or ferrets) without having him read it and put his stamp of approval on it first. He's more even tempered than I am and brings nice balance to me. Almost always the posts are results of discussions the two of us have had together and the best insights are almost always his. That's why I love this man so darn much. Here follow his comments. If you haven't read the first part, this post won't make much sense, so go read it.

Men have come a long way lately thanks to the issue of sexual temptation "coming out" as it were. Books like Every Man's Battle (every man's, what is common to mankind, 1 Corinthians 10: 12-13) have really helped. And women face similar/complimentary challenges. They may be set off by different circumstances or things, but they're there. Knoweldge is power. You'll never expect sin and be on guard against it, you'll never be able to take captive every thought, if you aren't aware of what you're like and what things are likely to affect and tempt you.

I think it's also helpful to understand who the "you" in you is. What I mean is, there are things that are normal in the sense of that's just how we're made. We're spiritual, rational, emotional, and physical beings. All of those are aspects of what and who we are. Spiritually, we're saved, but the other parts of us are what they were, and a big part of living life as a Christian is bringing the various parts of ourselves under Christ's rule and not letting them rule us.

For some people, the struggle is with their emotional self. For others it's the physical self. If you show a man a picture of a naked woman, any naked woman, his physical self will react by releasing chemicals in his brain that will make him like what he sees and want to keep looking at it. There's no stopping dopamine receptors. That's built-in. In that sense, it's normal. But we do, as creatures that are more than JUST physical, have the choice to assert our will and turn away, to choose not to let our will follow our body into lusting for that girl.

As a multi-part being, you can view yourself, or parts of yourself as a subject. You may not be able to control the fact that pretty women stimulate the release of chemicals in your brain, or that someone being kind to you when you're feeling neglected and reaching out to hold your hand makes you feel good (let's assume for the sake of argument that you're a woman and it's a guy who isn't your husband). Those are both normal, in the sense of natural, responses. But you are more than nature, more than just emotions or just a body. You can choose what to do with those responses, to ignore them, reject them, or (if it's with your spouse) embrace them! The you who chooses, that's the real you, and that's where sin is or is not located. In what you choose to do with what is put before you.

Understanding that robs temptation of it's power. It puts you and your obedience to God back in the driver's seat; it empowers your ability to treat yourself as the patient (as Martyn Lloyd Jones would put it, see "Spiritual Depression"). And it keeps your spiritual identity where it should be: you're a saved child of God, forgiven and in the process of being perfected. That is who YOU are.

So yes, knowing is important, and openness is empowering. You aren't your temptations, and you're not even your sin, and there's no sin so big that God is worried and afraid that He (and you with him) won't be able to handle it. Understanding your spiritual identity, and your larger physical, emotional, and rational makeup, is important. Otherwise, you'll get confused, and you'll be vulnerable to attack.

And for people who have been overcome by their fear of sin, sometimes it's helpful to hear the verse Amber quoted: "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."(1 Corinthians 10: 12-13)

Hey, it's common, what you're experiencing. We're all tempted. That's part of living in this world, and it's no good trying to simply deny that we are still physical/emotional/etc imperfect beings living in a fallen world. We can and will face the temptations common to all mankind. It doesn't help to pretend that we won't, and the Bible certainly doesn't pretend it. The Bible is brutally honest in showing that even the very best of Biblical heroes faced ordinary temptations and even fell to them (sometimes spectacularly).

It doesn't benefit me or others to pretend to be above it all, a perfect Christian who is invulnerable to temptation. I'm not. And the same is true for women. You're vulnerable, just like we men are. When we get married, God doesn't magically take away our dopamine receptors. He gives us our vows, and empowers us through the Holy Spirit to keep those vows, to rule our hearts and take captive our thoughts by a conscious and continual act of submission and obedience. When women get married, God doesn't take away your own natural responses. They may need more specialized circumstances to trigger and may (or may not) express themselves differently, bu they're there. And your only recourse is the same as ours.

All this is simply to say, more power to you girls, and I respect you all for your courage and openness, and I wish you all strength in meeting the challenges you face.


Elizabeth M. said...

Amber, I like you, and Mike, I like thee too.
One thing I thought about when reading these posts was of your previous posts concerning men coworkers who won't talk to women and treat them like vermin. It is a difficult line to balance, being a friend, and not being so much of a friend that one turns into a prospective love intrest.
Good Godly thoughts, my friends. Women are human and real and God is strong enough for the worst of us. Love you two, and Amber, thanks for the books!!!

sarahbri said...

I love Mike too. Just differently than you do, Amber. In a very asexual way :) Thank him for adding his wisdom here.