Monday, January 11, 2010

My beloved is mine and I am his: a spiritual look at lust

Used with permission (CC: rverspirit)

This is part two of a series on love. The first is here.

Both are entries in Bridget Chumbley's One Word at a Time Blog Carnival.

I get a little confused when I hear those nine references in the Hebrew scriptures that remind us that God gets jealous. God gets jealous...

Ponder that for a second. I thought jealousy was a bad thing. Love is not jealous, says St. Paul. God is love, says St. John. There's a paradox in here somewhere, but then, God is complex enough to defy comprehension on our terms, so we'll let this one slide.

Here's the point: God wants us so much that if we put anything in the way of the two of us, he gets seriously pissed off. Pissed off enough to destroy it. And "collateral damage" doesn't count. Now that's some seriously powerful desire.

Does it seem so odd that someone who loves us that passionately might expect the same in return from us.

We're made to be passionate. We're supposed to be passionate. We're good at it. We like it. God gives us the capability to be passionate, but leaves it to us to direct it properly (and learn from the consequences when we don't).

We enjoy being consumed by our passion to the exclusion of all else. Sports fans understand fixation and obsession. They're consumed. They think about their team constantly. They ponder what plays will be run this weekend. They fantasize that they're the coach, or the quarterback, or the star receiver. You ask them a question about the stats and they flinch like you're reading their mind and just caught them daydreaming again. They think about their team when they want to, when they don't realize they're thinking about it, and when they're thinking about something else at the same time. They're excited. It's their favorite subject. It's their love.

Now try going to a church that's structured around a detailed calendar, that has a setup where every week, day, hour, and moment has an appointed purpose, an activity to be taking place having something to do with a designated act of worship. Obsessive? Oh, yeah. Just about as obsessive as God is about us.

If... If we actually took part in every single one of those activities (that is to say, if we lived saintly lives), we might be scratching the surface of understanding how consumed God is by his own love for us (so much that he might, say, be willing to destroy himself in the process?). Every second, every heartbeat, would be lived with the conscious awareness of what aspect of devotion was the focus of the moment. Oh, we CAN. The schedule's there on paper. And some do, or at least claim to. The rest of us (like me) make concessions and exceptions and exclusions and excuses. We show up when we can, when it's convenient. We call Sunday "the Lord's day" as if the other six are ours.

So how do we get where we need to go?

  • Filters on. There's that verse that says to take every thought captive for Christ (2 Cor 10:5). Do that. He's not kidding.

  • Direct lust. Don't be so prideful as to think you've overcome it. Even God is consumed, which maybe says it's okay to be consumed. Take all your capability for passion and obsession and point it at the right goal. Need it. Go ahead, hunger. Take it. The kingdom of God suffers violence, and the violent take it by force (Mt 11:12).

  • Be consumed. He won't relent until he has it all. Desire the beloved as he desires you. You won't have room for any lusts that are contrary to God. Be full of devotion to him and you will be empty of devotion to anything else.

Lust is destructive. It consumes and erodes. Be sure you are consuming and being consumed by the holy.

I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him (2 Cor 11:1-2).


Shall I apologize for this post going on too long? Don't make me, please.

Does God accept us as we are? If so, it's dangerously easy to use that fact as an excuse to remain as we are.

Now listen to this song. It's the same theme, but the character reaches realizations that won't allow her to ever be the same.

She is the woman at the well. She is the Magdalen healed of demons. She is the harlot who comes with oil to annoint. She is Everywoman. She is us, you and me. I dare you to listen to this without crying. Go ahead. Try. She is you. This is your song.

You are now released from your lusts. You are no longer required to continue expressing them.

Go, and sin no more.