The journey toward healed sexuality and living from a free heart is long. It requires patience and persistence. The journey is rewarding, however, and the lasting freedom that is available is more satisfying that any sexual fantasy or porn you’ve ever experienced.
But it can be tiring.
You go to a recovery group. You go to one-to-one counseling. You a ton of time and energy digging in the dirt of your life to deal with your wounds.
Some days it’s a grind.
It would be enough of a challenge if the journey simply entailed a struggle against compulsions and habits.
But there’s more to it than that.
Our stories have a villain. The Enemy is active. Evil sets itself against us in a personal way.
Sometimes spiritual battle takes the form of outright attack. Sometimes spiritual battle takes the form of obvious demonic activity. And sometimes spiritual attack is simply a war of attrition.
The Enemy grinds us and wears us down through the pain and brokenness of our world; through the disappointment of life this side of the full reality of the Kingdom; and through sheer boredom.
i have been thinking about the war of attrition lately as i observe the Enemy’s opposition to me on my journey.
The daily assault of the Enemy, sometimes through the challenges of mundane life, and at other times through heavy discouragement that accompanies relationships with broken people, is relentless.
And so, resignation often sets in.
This is part and parcel of the crisis of masculinity today. It is the root of all of our addictions. It explains our rampant passivity on the one hand, and our out-of-control attempts to assert a form of strength and control on the other.
Porn, like so many other options, appeals to us because it definitely quickens our pulse. But what it leaves us with is not resuscitation, but rather more pain, isolation, and — frankly — death.
We die even as we live.
Albert Schweitzer, a theologian, philosopher, and physician said it this way:
“The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.”
All men can feel this happening even if they can’t articulate it. Diagnosis is very difficult. It is a subtle death. And most men don’t know what to do about it even once they can name the problem.
What if we could reverse the tragedy of life that Schweitzer describes, and actually live while we live?
Human attempts to figure out how to “suck the marrow out of life,” as the poet Henry David Thoreau once wrote, drive a lot of different types of behavior. From adventure lifestyles and thrill seeking among men to the porn epidemic, we’re all looking for life.
Those pursuits seem as though they will give us life, but where is the substance? The “life” dissipates once the thrill is gone. And it leaves ever more quickly the more you try to find life in those experiences of simulated passion.
Adventure is great and vital to a man’s soul. Sex is also great, and it is a gift God has given us. But making those things the goal, as opposed to enjoying those things in their right relationship to a larger call on our lives as men is a trap.
There must be a way to be fully and truly alive as a man, and a way to experience all the vibrancy we long for in a legitimate way. There must be a way to have the genuine article of engaged masculinity.
The path Jesus offers starts like this:
Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? (Matthew 16:24-26, The Message)
The question is: will we let Him lead?
Even for us men who claim faith in Jesus, and who know the “right” answer to this question, the reality is that we struggle to follow Him. But following Him is the only way that we can live while we live.