I saw my first naked woman in ninth grade. It was in English class and we were watching some unedited Shakespeare movie.
I felt really guilty.
When I went to Paris with my family later on in high school there were a lot of street vendors with pornographic magazines looking out at me.
I tried really hard to turn away.
I was a freshman in college and in my dorm lounge. A whole big group of people was watching one of those romantic movies. There was a sex scene. I watched it between my fingers. There weren’t any body parts shown or anything, but it was definitely a sex scene.
I told myself that those images, those scenes, they were only a matter of maturity. It was a matter of being an adult about it. It was a matter of keeping my wits about me.
It was only sex.
After a while I started being able to handle watching movies with women in their underwear or bras without being aroused.
It was just a matter of maturity.
I figured I was finally maturing. I was finally becoming an adult about it; finally able to handle sex.
* * *
That wasn’t maturity. That wasn’t becoming an adult.
That was desensitization.
If I drink a glass of vinegar every day, I eventually no longer taste its bitterness. But just because I don't taste the bitterness anymore doesn't mean my taste buds are reaching higher levels of maturation. It’s still vinegar. It’s still bitter.
Simply because I don’t get aroused watching a woman undress in the movies doesn’t mean I’m not lusting. It doesn’t mean I’m mature.
All it means is I’m desensitized.
I’m desensitized to the bitterness of vinegar, and I’m desensitized to the bitterness of lust.
* * *
When it says in the Bible that there shouldn’t be even a hint of sexual immorality among us, it makes it pretty difficult to justify my habits and practices.
And the Bible is straightforward in Ephesians 5:3. It says pretty clearly “not a hint.” And in case I was wrong or was just reading a random, fundamentalist translation of the Bible, I looked up all of them. Here are a few (find the rest here):
“must not be even a hint of sexual immorality” (NIV)
“let there be no sexual immorality” (NLT)
“sexual immorality…must not even be named among you” (ESV)
“fornication…let it not be once named among you” (KJV)
And finally, here is The Message: “Don’t allow love to turn into lust, setting off a downhill slide into sexual promiscuity, filthy practices, or bullying greed.”
* * *
I went for a walk this past weekend. My dad had a business conference in Las Vegas, and while he was in one of his meetings, I walked around the casino in search of a Starbucks mocha. I had big plans of chipping away at a memoir I’m working on, and a mocha was integral to my creative process.
Finally finding it, I started to walk back to the room. As I walked, a single thought floated through my mind: “God will turn me into a good husband and a good father. He will turn me into a man of God.”
I walked past a mirror as I thought this and glanced into it. I felt pretty good. I felt like I was headed somewhere in this manhood thing. God was turning me into a man.
As I looked into the mirror, an external question broke through my skull, splashed into my brain, and landed with a thud: “Are you willing to do the work?”
I kept walking, the mocha growing cool in my hand.
* * *
Desensitization is passive.
The fight against lust cannot be passive.
This fight must be active.
Maturity is active.