The Beach

Since we were in Orange County speaking at Voyager’s Church last weekend, Shelley and I went and walked along the beach together. (by the way, if you want to listen to our story you can do so here: Voyagers) I can’t remember the last time we were at the beach. This experience was definitely unlike any in the past.

Over the course of a half hour or so we talked, walked, and stopped periodically to take in the sights and sounds. People body-boarding, surfing, playing volleyball, and then, inevitably, women in skimpy bikinis. For a moment I felt uncomfortable. Not for my integrity but for Shelley’s security. Would it bring up old memories? Would it trigger body image issues for her? Would it remind her of a time when my eyes would wander and my mind would drift?

So I brought it up. beach

I was the one to say, “hey, I want you to know that my integrity is intact. It sure is nice to be at the beach and not be struggling to look at these women. I want you to know that I am not lusting, and while there has been some temptation, I’m thankful to being seeing people as people, not as objects and bodies.”

And it was so nerve-racking to bring it up! You just never know how a conversation like that is gonna go. It could go south before the first sentence is complete. It could ruin the whole day. And night. It could be a setback. Even 11 years later I still feel anxiety.

Or it could be the way forward.

Of course she was wondering. She was about to ask, in fact. Want to know what it gets built when the wife is thinking it but the husband is the first to bring it up? Yep, you guessed it: Trust. It gave us a sweet moment to reflect on where we’ve come from and what God has done in both our hearts and our relationship.

I encourage you, if you’re married, to talk about how you want conversations like this to go. As a wife, do you want your husband to bring it up and reassure you about his integrity, unprompted? As a husband, do you have fear and anxiety that you need to lean-in to and perhaps break through?

 

 

Instincts

Another devotional thought –

Jude 1:10

But these people sneer at anything they can’t understand, and by doing whatever they feel like doing—living by animal instinct only—they participate in their own destruction.

Some things we instinctively understand can be very dangerous if misused. It is easy to write-off something that is instinctual because it seems so natural, so simple, so expected. But, in order to live well and honor God, we have to learn to contain those instinctual impulses and let them guide us accordingly.

Consider food; eating is instinctual isn’t it? We all know the dangers of overeating or eating really poorly though; diabetes, stroke, heart attack, etc.
Let’s take sex; seems pretty instinctual too, right? If we’re honest, some of us have misused our sexuality too. We’ve engaged in acts we swore we would never commit, with people we never imagined, at times and places we would otherwise never visit.

Too often I hear men express their “high sex drive” as the reason they act out sexually with pornography, masturbation and even affairs. “It’s natural for me to want to have sex” they say. Then, when coached or guided on containing those instinctual impulses and delaying sexual gratification, they get defensive, argumentative and angry. In other words, they sneer at the advice.

Perhaps Jude was speaking to us when this scripture written, encouraging us to look deeper than our animal instincts.

Might our lives be different, and our relationship with God be different, if we tried to acknowledge our natural instinctual impulses as both physical and spiritual?

If we’ll allow it, our natural instincts can lead us in 2 ways; 1) to act in a physical way and 2) to act in a spiritual way.

The urge to eat can prompt us to find food for nourishment of our bodies. It can also be a prompt for us to seek spiritual nourishment too. That’s partly why we see fasting can be such a spiritual experience. The same can be true of sex. Sexual desire can be a prompt to engage intimately with another human, and by the same token, perhaps it can signal our need to engage intimately with our Creator.

What if sexual temptation and lustful thoughts are actually a cue to connect with God rather than just an opportunity to sin. We get to decide what it will be for each of us today.

How I Handle Temptation

I was tempted to look at porn this morning.

As part of my job, I regularly read articles about sexual integrity issues and how culture is influencing our sexuality. Every so often I get slimed by an article that takes WAY too much liberty in what it shows in the form of video clips and pictures. By “slimed”, I mean blasted with pornographic material I did not ask for. They could prove their point with substantially less footage. That happened this morning.

An article I clicked on had a tantalizing video that I was tempted to click on. I did not click it. I hovered the mouse button over it for a second or two, but ultimately chose a different route.  I thought it might be helpful for some guys to know what that process of choosing a different route looked like. At least, looked like this time. Its certainly not the same every time. Here’s how it went…

1 – Recognize How I Rationalize (rationalize = Rational Lies): these are the reasons I come up with to justify my sin. It sounds like this in my head – “this video isn’t that bad, its right on the line”, “its part of my job, I have to see this stuff”, “nobody will know, so no big deal”.

2 – Refute the Rational Lies – this is talking myself through the truth and grounding myself in reality – “everyone who matters will eventually know; the truth always comes out”, “you will literally lose everything that is meaningful in your life over 1 click and a stupid video”, “ this is meaningless and completely unsatisfying and you’re only going to compound the already crappy feelings you’re experiencing”.

3 – Physical Move – I had to push back away from my desk, away from my computer. I needed a physical change of posture to reorient myself. It is almost symbolic; a literal backing away translates to a mental and emotional backing away.

4 – Diagnostics – Taking a few minutes to diagnose what I am feeling and why. This morning I felt disappointment due to the fact that all 3 of my kids are sick, and someone in our house has been sick since Christmas. It has been very difficult. I also felt misunderstood this morning, based on conversations Shelley and I had over the weekend.

I also had to assess which of the 3 I’s (Insignificance, Incompetence, Impotence) may have been tapped. This morning it was Impotence – meaning, powerlessness. I feel completely powerless over my kids’ health and over my wife’s stress.  I also felt helpless to get a break; people are counting on me as a counselor today and I can’t just cancel my day and go into hiding.

 5 – Do Something Meaningful – it helped me to switch gears and actually do something meaningful. That happened to be responding to an email from someone looking for help. I believe one of the key reasons guys get trapped in things like pornography is they don’t know what they’re living for.  If we don’t have something to wake up for, we’ll medicate having to wake up for nothing.

6 – Connect – As much as I wanted to isolate and pretend the temptation, the close call, and the small victory never happened, it did. And someone needs to know. They need to know I’m struggling, and be present with me in that pain and those triggers. They also need to about that immediate victory, to celebrate with me and encourage me. We preach this all the time at the Every Mans Battle Workshops; connection, accountability and relationship. So, I texted a few guys; they responded within minutes with prayer, encouragement and a reminder that I’m loved. It’s a sweet thing to give Jesus a chance to show up through people. Maybe if he wanted to be the only one through whom God’s mercy flowed, he would’ve stuck around a little longer, rather than delegating to the disciples.

7 – Stay in the Fight – meaning that temptation didn’t come, then go, and now its all good times and happy. It stuck with me through the day. I had to stay in the fight, deal with my emotions in healthy ways, stay connected with people, remain present in my life, and keep my guard up. Temptation is rarely one and done.