It started in the Target check-out line.
There she was.
A daughter of Eve, the splendor of Creation.
Rose-colored glasses and a light blue sweatshirt, with hair more golden than a retriever.
Time stood still, and my heart beat twice as fast.
“Next customer, please.”
“Next customer, please.”
“Next custome– ugh, sir…sir?”
“Oh, sorry, I just — umm — is there a coupon for the Zyrtec today?”
I never did get her name.
I often laugh at my ability to write about romance, yet not experience it. A curse, really. Writing about love is easy — with a little bit of imagination and some country love songs for inspiration, you can have a decent novel in the works. Real romance, however, scares me.
Let me rephrase that: women scare me. Intimacy scares me. Sex scares me.
They’re not fears, to be sure. But true vulnerability the way Jesus intends in relationship truly frightens me at times. The soul is the essence of my being. Within it lies all my doubts, insecurities, and fears awaiting the scalpel of the Great Surgeon.
The ancient Hebrews refer to the soul as the Nephesh. They believed that we don’t just have a soul — we are a soul. So as the body desires food and water, the soul desires intimacy and love. Particularly for God, although many have fallen for replacing God with women. As Chesterton laments, every man knocking at a brothel is searching for God.
So is every nineteen-year-old kid in the Target check-out line.
All men, and I truly mean all men, are searching for God. The problem is that most men seek God through the means of the golden-haired woman.
You know who she is.
You may not have a face, smile, or name to put to her, but regardless, she is the idea that it is possible for a woman to satisfy your heart’s greatest need and desire. She is the epitome of beauty and the human embodiment of the Promised Land.
Or so we think.
She is found in pornography, social media, hook ups, dating, at the gym, and yes — in the Target check-out line. Heck, she’s found in many Christian circles, too (just listen to how often Christian guys talk about marriage, nonchalantly believing that union with Eve will miraculously solve all issues). It’s as if, by a strange turn of events, Christian men have begun to treat women like an object, although subtly. We make the assumption that she is the fix to all our problems: I wouldn’t lust if…I wouldn’t watch porn if…I wouldn’t struggle with self-esteem if…I wouldn’t…blah blah blah.
I read a book a few years ago that supposedly answered the question as to how to deal with lust. The answer? get married.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
127 pages later for an answer I could have gotten from any sarcastic middle-schooler.
There are two problems here (actually more, but I will just address these two):
number one: I was a junior in high school with no girlfriend, and I still don’t have a girlfriend. So in that case, I guess I’m cursed to struggle with lust for however many years until I get married.
number two: I’ve talked to countless men who say that they still struggle with lust, even in marriage. Some of these men have been married for multiple decades — all have children, some have grandchildren. Not only that, but all of these men are Biblical men who lead their wives and children well.
I am embarrassed by the ways that the church and Christian culture often addresses sexual sin. “Don’t watch porn. Don’t masturbate (actually, I’ve never heard this one mentioned in church before; I think most pastors are too afraid to mention the word). Don’t lust. Don’t watch R rated movies. Don’t watch Game of Thrones. Don’t do this, Don’t do that.” Wow. Thanks, Captain Obvious. We can all go home now and never sin again. Thank you for your incredible insight in to how to overcome sin. This is revolutionary, really. Especially once I get married, because then I will never again be tempted by distorted sexual desire. That all vanishes the night of my wedding, right?
If this all sounds facetious, it’s because it is. Paul actually addresses exactly what I’m talking about in Colossians 2:20-23: “You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of this world, such as, ‘Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!’ Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline, but they are no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.”
The secular and the religious world focus on overcoming sin, bad habits, etc. by self-discipline and devotion. Although both good in their own context, they do not help conquer the real issue: the heart. Christ’s goal is to restore the heart, and by doing so, conquer the evil desires. This is what Jesus means by, “first clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside will also be clean” (Matthew 23:26).
But understanding the restoration of Christ only comes after first understanding what I am truly thirsty for. Porn is never just about porn. Sex is never just about sex. And looking at the girl in the Target check-out line is never just about looking at the girl in the Target check-out line.
The true desire, the true thirst, is for God. We long for something, someone, to mend our broken heart and make it whole. We long to be restored, renewed, and fully alive. Lucky for us, this broken heart of ours is exactly the sacrifice God desires (Psalm 51:17).
“As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1).
One of the first steps in overcoming sexual sin is realizing that my true desire is not for the Golden-Haired Woman, but for God. And one of the first steps in discovering true romance is realizing that no woman will ever satisfy my soul’s desire. There is freedom in knowing that the Golden-Haired Woman does not exist.
Eve is the crown of creation. Mountains and oceans fail in comparison to her beauty. Kings and laymen alike are both captivated by her presence. She is made from the man, and a part of the man seems to be missing until he is united again with her.
But she is not the Creator.
A man must be made whole by God before he can rightly be joined by Eve in the adventure of Life. After all, God gave Adam Himself and established Adam’s identity before blessing him with the gift of Eve. Without restoration, every man is just a little boy chasing after the princess, not realizing that he is the one who needs saving –and only the King can save him. Only after establishing a proper relationship with the King and understanding his place in the Kingdom may the new man be ready to take on the challenge of pursuing a daughter of the King.
Until then, he’s just some kid in the Target check-out line, too afraid to ask her name and wavering in his own identity.