Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Food, Sex and Stuff (What I've Learned about Lust)

*Note: This is an article I had published earlier this year. I changed the title for you VV readers to what I originally hoped it would be, but alas, wasn't gonna fly in the original publication (oh, censorship!). Hope you enjoy it!

“And I'll sit back and say to myself, ‘My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!’"' (Luke12:19, NLT).

The Bible is the great revealer of human nature—it pegs me every time. Although I’d never proclaim that as my life verse, I can’t deny that this is the way I think. I justify my lack of self-control with cliché’s: “Life is short. Don’t deny yourself anything you want. Go ahead, do what makes you happy. Have another [fill in the blank]. You deserve it...”

After all, life’s about being happy, right?

Here’s the thing—I’m not happy. When I’m pouring my time, money and thoughts into fueling my cravings at all costs, I’m completely miserable. Depressed. Yet, I keep believing that lie—thinking that this time it might actually be true. That lie that tells me that THIS is the thing that will satisfy me. This piece of chocolate. This little “innocent” fantasy of what it might be like if I was married to that guy who sits across the aisle from me at church. This new pair of shoes.

Material things, food and men—I crave for them all in interchangeable measures, hoping they are the solution to the happiness that seems to elude me.

When I was 18 years old, I admitted to a room full of near strangers that I struggled with sexual lust. That moment of confession was the first step towards healing, in a process that would take years to work through. Yet while the sexual nature of that struggle has been tamed to a very large degree (and I can claim freedom from old habits), I must honestly admit that my battle with lust is far from over.

For several years, I had the wonderful, humbling privilege of leading intensive discipleship programs for young adults. Mentoring young women through an intentional process of finding healing from their struggles, I noticed an interesting pattern in those I was discipling (one eerily similar to myself just a few years prior). Just when one would seem to be experiencing real victory from sexual struggles, suddenly, a new struggle reared its ugly head. Men were no longer the primary thought on their minds—now it was food.

It’s no coincidence that a sexual struggle can quickly turn into a food struggle. They’re both about lust. Wanting, desiring, craving something so intensely. Once we realize that one thing doesn’t have the ability to satisfy us like we hoped it would, we turn to something else. The object of our affection might have changed, but the hunger is still there—a hunger that drives us to overindulge, throw away self-control completely (“I’ll work on that later…”) and ultimately, seek to find a savior for our pain in something other than Jesus.

I’m certainly not proud of this, but I choose to so openly share it because I believe vulnerability begets vulnerability. If I confess my struggle to you, it may just give you greater courage to bring your struggle into the light. Scripture tells us that “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth” (1 John 1:8, NLT). When we are honest with ourselves (stop living in denial of our issues) and others, however, God blesses us with a unique grace that can’t quite be articulated—you have to experience it for yourself to know just how much this vulnerability thing will change your life. In a moment of repentant confession, the hold that shame had on us is suddenly and dramatically broken. Although it certainly doesn’t sound pleasant (ripping our proverbial skeletons from the closet and exposing them is not exactly a prospect most of us get excited about), I can assure you that the end result is. It is the very thing the enemy fears. He knows we gain a stronger relationship with both God and others when we step into the light (1 John 1:6-7).

So, in my attempts to distance myself from darkness, I have already admitted to you that the darkness is not always far from me. In fact, sometimes I choose it. I know the Sunday School answer, yet, I am led away by the lust of my eyes—stuff, guys and sweets. I believe the lie that the glorious taste of that glazed cruller will ease my anxiety of the day. I succumb to the deception that that ultra-cute purse will magically pep up my mood. I am convinced that finding Mr. Right will silence the deeper longing in my heart for unconditional love. Yet all of these are lies. Total deception.

Just this last one, lust whispers coolly, THIS will fix it. The truth is that lust never satisfies. It never makes good on its claims—it always wants more.

I write this because I –former missionary and full-time church staff member—need to be reminded of it daily. I need to constantly set the Truth before my eyes; the Truth that sets me free. And THAT—the boundless freedom of being ruled by nothing other than Christ—is truly what I crave. 

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