For those women who’ve struggled with lust, it can be hard to know where the line is between healthy sexuality and sin.
Our background tends to make us paranoid of failure. We misinterpret our own actions.
You’re enjoying a nice night out with friends when a guy catches your eye. He smiles; you smile. Common courtesy or flirting?
He comes over and sits down and says hello; you say hello in return. Social interaction or leading him on?
You talk through the evening and he offers to walk you out to your car. He holds the door open for you and then offers you his arm to escort you across the ice. Chivalry or hidden motives?
You take his arm. The right thing to do or a public display of affection?
He shuts your door and you feel like a million bucks. The truth or prideful?
He’s attractive. Was that an observation or a lustful thought?
The next time you go out with friends, you dress a little nicer. You look around to see if he’s there. You smile a little bigger. You laugh a little louder. You walk a little slower to your car. Natural progression of a relationship or seduction?
I’ve seen all of that railed against in different Christian circles. Women shouldn’t make eye contact. They shouldn’t flirt. They shouldn’t engage in small talk. Shouldn’t be alone. Shouldn’t do a lot of things.
Here’s what I will say. I have been alone with men and it’s been lust, and I’ve been alone with men and it’s been pure. I have been friendly with men and it’s been sinful, and I’ve been friendly with men and it’s been edifying. I have dressed nicely and it’s been sexual, and I’ve dressed nicely and it’s been appropriate.
It would be nice if lust were an obvious black and white sin, but it isn’t.
By the time lust is visible, it isn’t just lust anymore. It’s pornograpy, masturbation, inappropriateness, immodesty, immorality. Plain vanilla lust isn’t visible; it’s a motive of the heart and mind. The problem with that is, if your mind is questioning your heart (or vice versa) you’ll always question your actions.
You’ll put on that black dress and wonder if it’s too low, too high, too tight, too loose, too black, and if you keep going, eventually, you will either wear a potato sack, no makeup, and a messy bun, or you just won’t go anywhere at all. What if I screw up? What if that’s lust and I just don’t know it? What if…
Better safe than sorry, right?
No. Better whole than broken.
The trap we fall into is the trap of a ‘heartless’ purity. Purity, for years, has been defined by physical guidelines that are easy to measure. Group dating, 3 inch sleeves on tank tops, knee-length skirts, makeup when you’re 18, 6 inch rules, and so on. Easy. Well-defined. Obvious.
However, purity has always been and should have always been a heart issue. Modesty, abstinence and virginity are physical issues. Purity is not, and that’s where a recovering lust addict gets tripped up.
We are trying to find the guidelines of purity so we can live them out, when in reality purity is a condition of our hearts. Our hearts scare us to death. They’re broken, twisted, and ugly, and it is much easier to slap a list of external rules on our actions than it is to open up the ugly depths of our heart for healing.
Until we do that, we are going to be lust-driven hearts living the life of purity, and questioning every decision we make.
We will always second guess, always be afraid, always wonder if our external show of ‘purity’ is loud enough to drown out lust. Is my skirt long enough to cover my desire to be seductive? Is my makeup tame enough to mask my want to be noticed? Is the dress loose enough to disguise my thoughts?
We will always wonder if that flare up of God given sexual desire was righteous or not. We’ll search for the root, question the cause, analyze the situation, and avoid it.
Ultimately, the question of “is this lust or natural sexual desire?” is not answered by what people see (they’re sitting too close together; she’s smiling at him; they’re walking alone). The question of whether or not something is lust is answered by:
I’m going to unpack that a bit in the next post (because this one is already long). Truth is most of our initial motives are good. What happens is, we take that good motive and we jack it up, scheme and manipulate to change it from a motivation into an agenda. A basic test would be, if you don’t have an agenda, your motives are probably clean.
This battle of lust is one that is ultimately won in our hearts. We can’t regulate ourselves into winning it.
Why? The abundant life is one of love. Yes, there are still boundaries, and there should be. Love doesn’t fear boundaries; it respects them. If you are living day to day afraid that you are lusting, you are still being held captive by your sin. It just has you in a different way.
Instead of being its slave, you’re getting death threats in the mail. Either way it still has you indoors, under its control, isolated from the world, and caged by fear. Either way, you are not healed; you are not moving on, and it still won.