If you were born any time since the early 1950s, which would take into consideration any of us between the age of one and 61, you've always known that we are pretty much menaced moment-by-moment. If some bug-eyed, superior being with multiple antennae is not plunging to earth from the deepest reaches of space, zapping all the way, munching on us or putting us into pods or beaming us up for experiments, then some monolithic monster from the deep which has been magnified and enraged by nuclear bombs or other man's mischief is speeding to the surface to chomp on us, swallow our boats and stomp our cities. Even the rocks can arrange themselves into monsters and provide us each a personal avalanche. Spiders wrap us, birds pluck out our eyes, zombies chase us through town, blobs devour us, aliens drain us, sharks shred us, meteors pound us and death rays vaporize us.
Yet . . . here we are. We turn off the TV, walk out of the movie, put down the comic book and look in the mirror to admit that the real menace is me. It comes from within. And, according to Mark, above, we have a pretty lengthy list of foes residing deep within the deep, growing like mold in the darker parts of our inner soul. Peachy keen, huh? Pick your personal poison and see how slowly it kills you. Or, mix and match: a layer of sexual immorality, a pinch of adultery, a tinge of lewdness, infused with envy, topped off with a dollop or two of pride. Now that's a recipe for success that any inner demon could admire.
I remember when I first came to grips with the fact that acting on homosexual temptation was a sin. It wasn't that I had ever really thought perhaps it was not wrong, but I do think I believed it was somewhat justified, kind of like justifiable homicide, when you have no choice but to kill someone who is coming after you. No choice. That's the way it can feel to struggle with sexual brokenness. The temptations assail you, building upon insecurities, uncertainties and normal needs that have been twisted and rearranged by events of life beyond your control. Indeed, denial seems to be an unrealistic and unnecessary impediment to happiness and inner peace. I have come to fully understand those who get tired of the whirlpool and throw themselves onto the banks of cultural-acceptance, just wanting relief from the dizziness of being tossed between culture and faith, of being the poster-child of all that is wrong with the world. You're wrong to do it; wrong to deny it.
But you're still you, in and out a creation that delights God, even if the distractions of your struggle cause others to disdain you, delve into you, distance themselves from you, dismiss you, seek to destroy you, or dare to love you.
Like God does.
Or, even if the distractions of your struggle cause others -- no matter how hard you resist -- to want to really know you.
Like God does.
We spend far too much time trying to be what people want us to be, think what people want us to think, believe what people want us to believe, want what people want us to want, change what people want us to change. We can get so exhausted trying to please people that we have little time to please God; we can be so busy remaking ourselves that we don't even seek to be what God intended us to be. In fact, His patience is so . . . patient . . . that we allow the persistent pushiness of man to commandeer us. We take advantage of His willingness to wait while we try to satisfy the demands of the throngs looking at our lives and suggesting do-overs.
Perhaps we might wish the "still-small-voice" was a little more agitating and a bit louder. There's a lot of cacophony that deserves a good drowning out. Still, that still-small-voice is the expression of the One who created the universe and our place in it.
Consider this: all those times that you are cowed in a corner somewhere, twisted into the shape of one big question mark, digging out the duct tape to keep your head from exploding from the pressure of the relentless quandary that can plague the mind of a man or woman who wants to do one thing . . . but really wants to do another thing, can't quite think through the whole process, is about to throw in the towel again and submit to self-satisfaction . . . God knows. He knows what you are thinking about, why you think about it and why you think you can't stop thinking about it. You being tempted is no big surprise to God. He knows what triggers it, what you think relieves it . . . and He even already knows what you are going to think about yourself after you give in and do what you have been thinking about. But, as much as he loves confession and repentance, He would much rather enter your thoughts early and avoid those steps altogether.
He's there for the whole pressure-cooker process as the mess from deep within begins to gin and explodes again and coats the walls of your longed-for peaceful life with the staining goo of giving in.
He's not busy with someone else. He hears your prayer.
Search me. -- Sometimes when I stand calmly before a mirror and focus on my own eyes, I think: "Do I know you?" This evokes moments of honesty, easily diverted with a toothbrush or by plugging in the shaver. God has no such distractions. Ask Him to really search you and He will not look away or busy Himself with the day's preparations. He created the day and He placed you in it. He sees in and out and every way around.
Know me. -- We want people to know what we want them to know, not really know us. God knows us. He knows not only that inner itch, but He knows what happened to us in the world to raise it to a level of irritation that demands we do whatever is in our power to seek relief. He knows that what might have been a bearable curiosity in me, for instance, was fully inflamed to major "I want" status by the double-whammy of father abandonment and childhood sexual abuse. But he also knows the pain some of you may feel because you find yourselves embroiled in a temptation and the only person you can point a finger at is yourself. It may be dissatisfying when there is no one else to blame, but the truth remains the same. Sin is sin. God wants to hear you say "know me." He already does, of course, but He wants to know you want Him to know.
Test me. -- God doesn't test us the way the world tests us. He's not the dangle-type, holding something just out of reach to see if we will wear ourselves out lunging along the edge of self-destruction. Remember . . . He does not tempt. So . . . can you trust Him to test you? If you asked Him to search you and to know you, then why not let Him test you to see if you know yourself as He does? God tests us to prepare us for victory, not defeat. So . . . search and know, just like you asked Him to do. Search His word; know His ways. Ask Him to test you. And don't forget the answers to the bonus question: "trust and obey."
Know my anxious thoughts. -- No wait . . . don't. Not those thoughts. Isn't that the way many of us approach life? Yet, here is the acknowledgement that we will have those anxious thoughts. You can't hide them, not from God.
I get anxious sometimes. I listen to the reasoned arguments of people on both sides of the strugglers' "personal problems.' Most of the time I just don't like what I hear and I want to straighten it all out, make it clear, stop the pain, bring perfect understanding and healing rain for all. And then I realize that if I had it all figured out . . . then I would have it all figured out. Truth is, even if I did, why would people listen to me any more than they listen to God?
One of the strangest stretch-of-a-movies I ever watched on SyFy, in its everlasting effort to find more and more monsters, was called Rock Monster. A college student travels to a remote eastern-European village and unwittingly releases the rock monster who wreaks havoc on the peaceful countryside.
The only real threat that rocks might come to life is if we think we can suppress the truth of Christ. When the Pharisees tried to hush the disciples, Jesus Himself made it clear.
With all the effort going on in our world today to silence the truth of Christ, it's a wonder we're not all sitting on the banks of a river listening to the rocks babble. We're all on the verge of truth, no matter what we do to divert our minds from it. God's love for us will not allow Him to change His mind. He won't make something that is wrong seem right just to make us feel better. Nor will Jesus' love for us allow Him to ignore us when we ask Him to search us, know us and test us. Be thankful that the sins that plague us come from within, because that is where Christ cleanses us.
That's monstrously powerful.
Please God with your life by knowing what pleases God . . . and everyone else will be fine, or, if not, in need of and greatly worthy of your prayers.
(Want to know more about overcoming sexual brokenness? Order a copy of Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do. Available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com and through your bookstore.)