How I had one foot in and one foot out of sexual purity
The prompt for this particular blog post comes with one huge assumption. Namely, that I have ever had a foot in some area remotely known as “sexual purity.” If sexual purity is the Promised Land than call me Moses. My story may help others get there but it’s not a place I have been.
And I’m not really sure that either place – the pure one and the impure one – is something that can be straddled. I’m not convinced that if I look at porn today I am sexually impure but if I abstain tomorrow I am now pure. If this were so, then sexual purity would be a matter of actions. It would be all about what I do or do not do. And I think that misses the mark.
For millennia purity has been about action and inaction. The Sabbath was kept holy by a rigorous list of things a devout Jew either did or didn’t do. Likewise, a kosher marriage meant a man did not sleep in the same room or touch his wife while she was menstruating lest they both become ritually unclean. Our ancestors, from Jews to Puritans to present day Christians, have spilled no shortage of ink (and blood) over creative dances which presumably land both feet firmly on some promised land we call purity – sexual or otherwise.
Not surprisingly, Jesus has something to say about all of this.
Jesus cuts to the root of our action and inaction and calls it all dross (I’m being polite) when compared to the state of the heart. It’s not what goes in or comes out that defiles a person, Jesus says. It’s what is in his or her heart. (Matt. 15:11-20).
In other words, sexual purity has nothing to do with where my feet are.
This can complicate things for us humans, sex addicts or other addicts, who are so task oriented, having convinced ourselves that our problem lies solely in our actions. If I could just stop looking at porn, we tell ourselves, then I’d be clean. Ever say that? It’s a fool’s dream.
When we fail again and again to make our actions bow to our good-intentions we hopefully reach the conclusion that we are powerless over our sexual addiction and that only God can restore us to sanity. It’s a heart, not a foot, matter.
So it is that I have gone long stretches of time without looking at porn or acting out in other, more harmful, ways, but I can’t convince myself that I was in a state of sexual purity. Heck, I’m not even really sure what that is. I imagine it to mean that sex, like other great gifts from God, is sacred and to be used responsibly and with thanksgiving. I imagine it means that I am freed from the desire to use sex to either affirm my self-worth or to forget my self-imposed worthlessness. I imagine it means having motivations that are true and just and that every interaction I have, sexual or otherwise, is not driven by lust or selfishness. I imagine it means that love is my guiding rule, beginning first with myself and God, releasing me from the fears I have of being both inconsequential and a conquerer all at the same time.
All of this sounds like a land flowing with milk and honey and I feel like a stuttering Moses pointing it out. I can’t say I’ve had my feet on the other side of the Jordan but there are times I feel the waves lapping over my toes. I think it’s a place worth longing for, and learning to swim to get to. Or at least pray.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10)