Last week I looked at how today's sex addiction falls under the category "nothing new under the sun." There has always been sexual sin, it's always tended toward addiction and it used to be directly linked to idol worship. This week in one of the support groups I facilitate someone brought up the issue of "our idols." This resonated with me enough that I thought I'd spend some time exploring it with the community.
The "goddess" worshippers (i.e., porn/sex addicts) are looking to escape their emotional pain by way of a sexual arousal-induced dopamine high. However, some of us women do, in a similar manner, turn to a "false saviour" to help us escape the pain of life in this fallen world (including in some instances the pain of his addiction).
For some of us this can be internally constructed fantasies of "the prince," "the knight" or some such fantasy (hu)man who will love us as we desire to be loved and thus end the pain that results from rejection and lies about our identity. For myself, these fantasies began as a child and were inspired by fairytales and other children's stories. Later "romance" novels would play a part in these... and with these came the sexual element.
Whether our fantasies are romantic, sexual, or both, living in a fantasy world holds no real help or healing. There is no man on this planet who is going to fill all our emotional and spiritual (or even sexual) needs. Jesus alone offers "everlasting joy" in the future and "I will never leave you," companionship and caring in the present. This is the same Jesus who made the oceans, stars and ducklings (aren't they cute!!). Human love is nice... but seriously... nothing in the human is going to touch that.
Whether my need is to know I'm delighted in or to know I'm safe... He is there to meet that. He asks that I learn to see Him as my refuge and strength (Psalm 46). He left safety and perfection to come here and save me (through suffering, torture and death) from sin and all it's myriad devastating consequences. What romance novel can touch this true story? What fantasy?
As an aside, if you are one of the many PSAs who currently finds herself living a celibate life she did not ask for, please know that Jesus wants to help with that too. I encourage you, to become the master of your sexuality through "disuse." Rather than becoming a slave to it, as your husband did, imagine yourself wrapping those desires in a package and handing them to God. Thank him for the excellent gift of your sexuality and ask Him to hang on to it for now. Be honest with Him about how you feel about having to delay using this gift (e.g., sad, frustrated, angry) and ask him to bless you with the gifts of self-control and patience. Be kind to yourself in this struggle (you have been left vulnerable).
At times my idol was my marriage and family. My fantasy family was going to be a place where I could thrive as a Proverbs 31 wife. I would serve these beautiful people who would in turn rise up and call me "blessed." I even imagined at times that we might be desperately poor, but that would be alright because the love we would have for each other would be so strong that these external sufferings would seem hardly noticeable compared to the internal family riches.
Not long after disclosure I found myself having to grieve the loss of this dream: and many of the dreams I'd had for my kids. However, over the course of this nine-year trek out of partner-of-sex-addict trauma, I've come to recognize that my perfect family was another myth... and idol. As I've repented of this form of idolatry and "let go" of the dream, handing the reigns of these wild horses over to God, I've come to see the beauty in our ashes. That doesn't mean I've loved every moment: I've rightly hated many of them. But it does mean I'm trusting that God's heart is to redeem every loss and turn it into something stronger, truer and more amazing than I could have concocted in any daydream. Nine years in I do see glimpses of it, even though:
- My husband sometimes struggles with the remnants of addictive thinking
- I regularly battle low-level anxiety and hypervigilance
- One of my kids has wandered off spiritually... for now
- One of my kids has been recently diagnosed with a chronic illness predicted to lead to an earlier-than-normal death... and tough life
- We don't love each other half so well as I'd like
Other PSAs around me are suffering worse than this with their kids and husbands. Thankfully some are learning faster than I did to "turn away" from the "family idol" and embrace the Father who is making an ideal family out of us runny-nosed, unruly, belligerent bunch of kids. Some of them have even found in Him the strength to leave abusive relationships and let God define their immediate family unit afresh: and know "it is good"... at least good enough for this season.
There have been other idols in my life: music, "health", food, comfort, achievement. I have been so blessed to have had God strip most of these away... and then gradually release them again as I was able to put them in their rightful place (i.e., well after Him and His work).
This horrible journey has been redeemed (over long years) in that it has caused me to see God as the only one who saves, redeems, comforts, loves, speaks truth and supplies all my needs. The words of Paul have proven true for me:
"...we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame..." (Romans 5:3-4)