By: Shane James O’Neill
4 min. read
Lusting at the Gym
I was reading about a therapist’s struggle with lust in the book An Impossible Marriage, and the therapist described his temptation typically hangs out at a three or four — zero being none at all, and ten being quite high.
It’s a simple way to measure a libido baseline, yet I liked it and felt my sex drive has a similar baseline.
But, I was the gym recently and found that three or four number rising to six or seven.
I intentionally go the gym at a time when there are fewer people, but for whatever reason there were several attractive women in skintight, skin revealing clothing — which was something my eyes found quite interesting. I kept discovering myself looking without knowing I was looking. Consequently, I continued jarring myself out of the stupor and haze that sexual attraction can put you in.
But it was a long hour with many moments of evaluating my own heart.
The yearning wasn’t enough to create panic, but alarms were going off inside me.
Being Lusted After
While this craziness was taking place, I kept noticing an old woman with missing teeth and disheveled hair staring at me. I’d look away, do something, and then go to move just to find that she’d been looking at me the entire time.
I’m ashamed to say, I felt disgust, a disgust magnified by my ego — as I was visually consuming the skin and image of the young women around me, I was being visually consumed by an old woman I found repelling.
Disgust as a Mirror
I made it through the workout and was on my way out when I noticed the old woman staring at me, again. My heart lashed out with disdain and revulsion. And just as I was dehumanizing this older woman, God’s Spirit said, “You’re disgusted with her when she looks at you that way, but it’s just as disgusting when you do it.”
My heart instantly cracked apart. The message came in loud and clear: the same ugliness I saw when I looked at that older woman is the same ugliness that my soul takes on when I stared at the women my age.
Her face was a mirror of my heart. I despised her face because I despised my own heart.
I was sexualizing those around me, and yet I hated being sexualized. And my sexualizing of those around me caused me to see people for their skin and image, as either sexy or repulsive, instead of peering into the reality that those around me are worthy of the deepest respect as reflections of Jehovah.
I left that gym knowing God better, seeing human majesty; and I left so very humbled, as Jesus reshaped my heart.
Resolutions and Lust
We have this idea about New Year’s Resolutions that if we mess up, then we have to start over. As adults, many of us no longer create resolutions; we simply don’t try. And yet, resolutions are a beautifully sophisticated way to practice hope. Do you think of resolutions that way, as hopes we have ourselves and hopes about who we long to be? Typically, I do not. Yet, that’s exactly what they are.
That begs the question, what are your hopes? And, what are you hopes with your lust struggles? Who do you want to be?
I like that passage there in 1 John — “whoever practices righteousness is righteous.” It is the very practice, the road we tread, that makes us righteous, because we are following in the footsteps the Righteous One. It is remarkable to think that even as we stumble along, merely walking in His footsteps makes us righteous.
God could snap His fingers and make us perfect, yet He doesn’t. As much as that frustrates me, it should cause us to ask “Why?” The answer is simple and raw: because His goal is form us into our true selves — to birth, grow, and nurture Christ in us, as the St. Paul so often says.
Jesus is concerned with our character, with cultivating hope inside us, with teaching us to mourn, to rejoice, to abound in thanksgiving, to form and weave the constitution of His Kingdom into the fibers of our soul. God doesn’t want puppets who don’t know anything about love. And, as much as I hate typing it, I don’t want to be a puppet who knows nothing about real love.
He’s with us in our practice, for it’s the practice that makes us righteous, just as He was with me in that gym, hearing and responding to my shallow, desperate pleas for help.
Resolutions for lust and hope
So, what are your resolutions with lust? What kind of growth and changes to you long to see within yourself? What kind of man (or woman) do you long to be?
Take some time to journal that image, that hope, of yourself. Process that image with Him. Let Him tweak it and shape it. Then give Him that image. Repent of practicing something other, something less, something ugly and disgusting. And ask Him to form you into that image. It is an incredibly easy thing to do, yet it’s a practice that will reshape your soul.
There are always things we can do. Perhaps your resolution is to tell a friend, tell your spouse, or go through the Proven curriculum (for my soul’s sake, I do that once a year).
Use your resolution to dream again and to hope.
Jesus, thank you for your resolution to never give up on us. Make us into the men and women you died to redeem.
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Shane James O’Neill is the Editorial Director for Proven Men Ministries. He is currently working on a graduate degree in apologetics at Liberty University’s Rawling School of Divinity.