Classy Writers

Classical Writers

Bartering with Our Bodies As we wrestled ourselves into our buoyancy vests and air tanks, our scuba instructor explained, “Some of your depth gauges have directional compasses; others do not.” I looked at the gauge in my hand. One dial would tell me how

Bartering with Our Bodies As we wrestled ourselves into our buoyancy vests and air tanks, our scuba instructor explained, “Some of your depth gauges have directional compasses; others do not.” I looked at the gauge in my hand. One dial would tell me how much air remained in my tank. The other would tell me how deeply into the water I was diving. There was no third dial indicating north, south, east, or west. But I wasn’t worried. We were diving in a one-hundred-acre lake, not a gigantic ocean. Surely a compass wouldn’t be needed. We also assumed that sunscreen wasn’t necessary. After all, we’d be thirty feet under water most of the time. However, my scuba mask kept filling up with water, regardless of how many times I cleared it, and I spent a lot more time at the surface wrestling with my mask straps than I had bargained for. So my exposed forehead got a lot more sun than anticipated. By late afternoon, my fins were giving me fits, rubbing blisters on my little toes. Unable to swim at full speed, I was holding everyone back. Between my not-so-airtight face mask, my sunburned forehead, and my toe blisters, I decided I’d call it a day and let my husband and kids continue across the lake without me. Backstroking the half mile back to the dock would have been the easiest approach, but that would fry my forehead in the Texas sun even more, so I put my regulator in my mouth, sank my face into the water, and began freestyling slowly in that direction. Or so I thought. After several tiring minutes, I looked up, thinking surely the dock was just a few more feet away. But somehow I had managed to get turned around, and I was even farther away from the dock than when I’d started! I was exhausted by the time I finally reached shore. Without a compass, it’s easy to lose our bearings. Not just in water or on land but also in relationships. Rather than looking to bless others, we seek people who will shoulder our burdens, right our wrongs, medicate our emotional pain, and provide the attention and affection we crave. This is exactly what we see in the book of Genesis, as Satan distorted healthy relationships by luring the following people into immoral acts of premarital sex, prostitution, and seduction: • Shechem forced Dinah to have premarital sex (Gen. 34:2). • Tamar prostituted herself to Judah (Gen. 38:12–23). • Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce Joseph (Gen. 39:7). Each of these biblical characters shows us that “bartering with our bodies” has come naturally to humans since the fall of man. But the questions beg to be asked: • What are we bartering for? • Who are we bartering with? And an even more important question is: • Does the person we’re bartering with possess what we’re searching for, or have we merely lost our bearings? In response to the first question, many would say that men are looking for sex and women are looking for romance. But this ultimately boils down to desiring the exact same things—affirmation, acceptance, comfort, and security. Although it sounds cliché, truer words were never spoken: we all are looking for love. Many of us just have some very distorted images of what love looks like and where it can be found—mainly because our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual compasses are not always as reliable as we think. Based on my professional experiences as a life coach, as well as my personal experiences as a recovering sex and relationship addict myself (a journey I’ve written extensively about in the Every Woman’s Battle series), there are four main directions/ relationships that humans gravitate toward in search of the love we naturally long for: • the mother figure • the father figure • the fountain of youth • the spiritual idol Before we venture into these directions, let’s discuss two Latin words that will give great insight to why they mean so much to us. The Latin words for “soul” are anima and animus. One of the patriarchs of psychology, Dr. Carl Jung, applied these terms to describe the feminine soul-image that resides in men (anima) and the masculine soul-image in women (animus). At first glance this can seem backward. Shouldn’t the feminine image be inside the woman and the masculine image inside the man? But surely you have heard of women who find the strength to “pick themselves up by the bootstraps” or men who have swept their wives off their feet because they’ve “gotten in touch with their feminine side.” Humans actually possess both masculine and feminine spiritual components, just as God does. Remember, God is neither exclusively male nor female but both. (We talk more about “Searching for the Softer Side of God” in the “Behind the Curtain” feature at the end of this chapter.) Dr. Jung theorized that the anima and animus appear regularly in our dreams and fantasies and play a tremendous role in the development of our personal and interpersonal lives. In fact, I would also say they greatly influence our marriages and family relationships as well since balancing masculine and feminine energies is something that parents unconsciously role-model for their children. Women often dream or fantasize about masculine images and men about feminine images. By projecting their anima and animus images onto another person, both men and women often try to complete themselves through another (usually opposite-sex) human being. But the fantasy that another person holds what we are looking for is an absolute fallacy—one that has destroyed many lives and marriages. What we are looking for cannot be cultivated from another human being. It can only be cultivated, with God’s help, inside ourselves. Leanne Payne, author of The Broken Image, gives insight as to why cannibals eat other humans. They don’t eat just to fill their tummies. They eat someone they perceive has characteristics and qualities that they are missing and that they would like to possess. 1 But, of course, having someone for dinner doesn’t imbue us with his personality traits. Neither does being in a romantic relationship with that person. Yet how often do we see this type of mental bartering taking place? • She’s really uninhibited . . . so perhaps I can let go of all my inhibitions with her. • He’s famously brilliant . . . so if I’m his partner, people will think I’m smart too. • She’s stunningly gorgeous . . . so if she’s on my arm, I’ll look that much better. • He’s incredibly compassionate . . . I need more of that in my life, so I need him. With this understanding of how our human psyche works, these four common (mis)directions will make a lot more sense. ARE YOU MY MOTHER? Perhaps you noticed in the last chapter that all three of our pornography “experts” struggled with “mother wounds” from childhood. Indeed, a secure attachment to our primary caretakers—usually our moms—is vital to our appropriate sexual development. You may remember P. D. Eastman’s classic story Are You My Mother? It’s about a little bird searching high and low, mistaking everything from kittens and cows to boats and bulldozers, in search of the mama he longs to reconnect with. While there is certainly something in all of us that draws us toward a nurturing mother figure, many men search high and low to either (a) find a woman just like dear old Mom or (b) find a woman who can assure him that not all women are like his own mother, nor will all women make him feel the way his mother made him feel. Ricardo will attest to this latter fact. At a Celebrate Recovery meeting Ricardo shared from the stage how every time he had sex with a woman (he estimated having more than one hundred partners within a thirty-year span of time), he was subconsciously screaming, “See, Ma! Somebody really does care about me! Somebody thinks I’m worthy of love!” But that feeling never lasted long before she ripped his heart out and stomped on it too. Ricardo realized that this approach to relationships worked about as well as drinking poison with the hope that someone else will die. It wasn’t hurting his alcoholic mother. It was hurting the women he was trying to love and hurting him even further. He finally drew the conclusion that he had to stop bartering with his body, take a big step back from relationships altogether, and heal the mother wound that no other woman on the planet could possibly heal. He did this through extensive group and individual therapy, where he learned to nurture himself emotionally in the very ways he thought only another woman could. Men are not the only ones who sometime need to “reparent” themselves. It is a skill women also must learn so that they do not go to unhealthy extremes in . . . FILLING THE FATHER-SHAPED HOLE If I had to identify the most common thread among all of my female clients who struggle with inappropriate sexual or emotional entanglements, it would be “unresolved daddy issues.” Just as a mother teaches her son how to properly interact with women, it’s a father’s job to teach his daughter that she is worthy of love, attention, and affection, not because of how she looks or what she’ll do for him, but simply for who she is. If a girl doesn’t get this gift from daddy in her formative years, she will be tempted to pound the pavement looking for it the rest of her life. She will concoct fantasy after fantasy of being found desirable by men. For example: • Necia, who fell head over heels for her college roommate’s father because he would visit often, lavishing the kind of attention on her that Necia only wished her dad was capable of expressing. • Tina, who, by her own admission, dressed like a call girl throughout her teenage and college years because she saw how her father sexualized women and she was desperate for him to notice her somehow. • Kelly, who was never able to say no to her controlling and critical father, allowed a ten-month sexual affair to develop between her and her boss. “I didn’t want to make him feel rejected, nor did I want his wife to reject him, so I carried the load of guilt and shame for us both,” she recalled. Some women don’t wake up to the fact that they are being codependent with a father figure until after the shine wears off of the relationship to reveal a very dysfunctional dynamic. Like Belinda, who at twenty-six married a man nineteen years her senior. “He made me feel safe, protected, and cherished,” she explained. When they turned forty-five and sixty-four, respectively, she was hitting her sexual peak while he was on the downhill slide. Belinda admitted, “Even though he totally lit my fire for the first few years of our marriage, there’s not a lot of sexual energy left. I feel more like I’m caring for my father than growing old with my lover. Father figures are fun until they turn into grandfather figures.” Of course, many of these father figures were actually just . . . SEARCHING FOR A FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH Perhaps you’ve heard the joke about the man who trades in his cold fifty-year-old wife for two hot twenty-five-year-olds. Or you’ve seen the movie The Graduate about Mrs. Robinson, a middle-aged mom, who seduces a twenty-one-year-old virgin. Searching for a younger sexual partner to hide the fact that we are growing older isn’t the focus of just jokes and movies. It is frequently the stuff that headline news is made of as well, such as the forty-something youth pastor who wants to marry a fourteen-year-old member of his youth group, or the female teacher who is fired for having sex with one of her teenage students. Stories such as these give rise to terms such as dirty old man, cougar, and midlife crisis. The label cougar is what motivated one woman (Alison) to connect with me. The word alone drove her crazy. In her early forties, Alison had Botox and breast implants to assuage her fears of losing her sex appeal as she aged. But she didn’t expect that men half her age would take such overt notice of her new figure. She became chummy with a nineteen-year-old whom she worked with at a posh hotel, and she wasted a lot of brainpower wondering if he had sexual feelings toward her. (Her energies would have been more wisely invested examining whether she had sexual feelings toward him.) One night they were working a banquet together at the hotel. Toward the end of the evening, she dismissed all of the workers except this nineteen-year-old boy. Once it was just the two of them, it was “game on” in his mind. Immersed in a whirlwind of emotional heat and hormones, they wound up in one of the hotel rooms together after the banquet concluded. In the beginning, Alison minimized the interlude in her mind. My husband isn’t attentive enough. And he probably does the same thing when traveling. Afterward, Satan maximized the encounter: What a slut and a cougar you are! People can see right through you! Given that the fantasy of having a much younger sex partner is relatively common to both men and women, let’s consider possible meanings behind this archetypal image. The most obvious reason is that society celebrates and glamorizes the firm bodies and energetic souls of young people far more than the passion, wisdom, and experience of older people. We have been conned by the media into believing that we lose our appeal as we grow older, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Plenty of people find aging men and women sexually attractive. There have actually been studies proving that both genders find gray hair particularly alluring. The main reason Hollywood focuses its lens on youth is that young people are more exhibitionistic and easier to catch on film. Teens and twenty-somethings don’t know any better than to lift their T-shirts for a Girls Gone Wild camera crew. They are still searching for their own sense of self and make easier targets for sexual exploitation. An even deeper layer that we need to acknowledge is that as we age, our spouses age, too, and the question often looms large in at least one partner’s mind, Is this the beginning of the end of our (my) sex life? Because sex appeal and arousal are often mental measuring sticks for vitality and quality of life, such a notion can be very scary. The thought of tapering off sexually can feel like slipping one foot into the grave and greasing the bottom of the other shoe. After all, we grew up thinking our own parents never had sex (they seemed too old for that!), and none of us ever envisioned our grandparents still having sex at their age (although many of us were quite wrong). This fear of growing old and losing our mojo is what often drives middle-aged men to fantasize about their young receptionists or to mentally compare their wives to much younger women, thinking of all the ways their bodies don’t measure up any longer. This is a very unfair comparison. Age happens to both of us (in equal proportion) as calendar pages turn. Her facial wrinkles, saggy breasts, and cellulite ripples don’t have to be any less appealing to him than his receding hairline, belly paunch, and ever-growing nose and ear hair are to her. It’s not about looking like Barbie and Ken dolls all our lives. It’s all about loving each other and remaining as sexual as possible as we grow old together. Let’s trace this desire for a fountain of youth all the way down to its core. Why would we want to remain young and vibrant? So we can live forever or at least as long as possible. And where does this desire for eternal life come from? I believe it’s woven into the fiber of our spiritual DNA because eternal life is our inheritance through Christ. There is so much wonder and delight that we can anticipate in heaven. This earthly life is merely a sad preview that pales in comparison. So let’s focus on investing wisely, making generous, eternal spiritual deposits into other people’s lives (rather than worrying about being found sexually attractive) until Jesus returns. Speaking of our spiritual DNA, let’s dive into the final direction we often gravitate toward—spiritual idols. BE STILL AND KNOW THAT YOU ARE MY GOD! The main reason that we barter with our bodies for the attention and affection we deeply desire is that we don’t trust God for the satisfaction we seek, the provision we need, or the comfort we crave. Why? Because it’s much easier to reach for the middlemen (or middlewomen). They are readily available and eager to hold our projection screens while we play our mental movies onto them. God doesn’t seem nearly as easy to access. But the truth is that He’s more accessible and more eager to meet our needs than any human can be. We are just too spiritually lazy to look past the middlemen and seek the Real Deal. But there is a tremendous difference between what a human has to offer and what God has to offer. So many women have discovered this reality the hard way. The possibility of passion and the notion of romance keep us captivated to the core, which is why romance novels and chick flicks are such a booming industry. We fantasize about being wooed and pursued by the perfect man who’s been looking his whole life to find and fulfill a woman just like us—a wonderful, generous, considerate, and compassionate man who will move heaven and earth just to be with us! A man who’ll lay down his life to protect us and provide for us, who’ll bring out the very best in us and take great delight in us even on our worst days! And why might a woman search the world (and the Internet) to find him? Because we’ve lost sight of the fact that we already have such a Man in our lives! His name is Jesus. No other man could possibly shoulder such burdens and live up to such expectations! Women are certainly not the only ones in danger of adopting an opposite-sex archetype as a false god. Men are just as guilty, just as prone to this fantasy fallacy that a certain human being can fulfill our deepest longings. A few years ago I received an anonymous e-mail from a pastor. He’d just read both Every Man’s Battle and Every Woman’s Battle, and he said he needed to confess his sin to someone who would understand. His fear was that his denominational leaders would certainly not be sympathetic. My guess is he was right. He admitted to having four affairs over the previous ten years, all with women in his congregation: Each time these relationships started in my counseling office, as they bemoan the fact that their husbands aren’t good spiritual leaders. They want men who will pray over them, discuss the Bible with them, draw them closer to God—all things that a pastor focuses his time and energy doing. So, of course, these women have seen me as a “direct connection” to God. I can’t tell you how heady this is for a man to realize that a woman views him in such a way, especially when his wife belittles him at home. It’s jolting . . . humbling . . . overwhelming . . . and yes, intoxicating. I always thought that these needy women were just looking for a man to be Jesus with skin on for them, and I was happy to oblige. But my flesh eventually got in the way every time. What I’ve come to understand is that I wasn’t just their god; they were, in fact, mine. 2 Whether we are male or female, we all must realize that fulfillment isn’t found in another human being, no matter how appealing that other person may be, no matter how soothing and invigorating his or her presence may feel. Instead of looking to another, it’s time to correct our compass and look to our Creator instead. CORRECTING OUR COMPASS Once we wake up from the fantasy that fulfillment can be found in a spiritual idol, a mother figure, a father figure, or a fountain-of-youth figure, we are ready to reach in the right direction. We are finally able to grasp the reality that what we are actually looking for can be found primarily in God and secondarily in ourselves. Timothy Keller sheds light on this spiritual illumination process in his book Counterfeit Gods, where he explains: [Our fantasies and false idols sometimes] come crashing down around us. This is a great opportunity. We are briefly experiencing “disenchantment.” In the old stories, that meant that the spell cast by the evil sorcerer was broken and there was the chance to escape. Such times come to us as individuals, when some great enterprise, pursuit, or person on which we have built our hopes fails to deliver what (we thought) was promised. . . . The way forward, out of despair, is to discern the idols of our hearts and our culture. But that will not be enough. The only way to free ourselves from the destructive influence of counterfeit gods is to turn back to the true one. The living God . . . is the only Lord who, if you find him, can truly fulfill you, and if you fail him, can truly forgive you. 3 With this knowledge planted firmly in our brains, we can grasp the concept that “enchantment” with another human being is merely illusion, fantasy, wishful thinking, and misdirected projections. Disenchantment, however, is the process of embracing an empowering reality. It’s coming up to the surface of the water to get our bearings rather than swimming around in circles, thinking we’re heading for home when we’re really lost at sea. What we often desperately search for in others, we already possess in God and in ourselves. Because God loves us, we can learn to love ourselves and others. Because God comforts us, we can comfort ourselves and others. Because God provides for our every need, we’re able to stand on our own two feet and help others do the same. We can see someone who fits our mold, and instead of drawing that person into our emotional void and making an idol out of him or her, we can sit with that feeling. We can let the feelings swirling around inside us become inspiration for praise—“Thank You, Lord, for making such fine art!”—and choose to worship the Creator rather than the creation. “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” 4 —c. s. lewis Embracing disenchantment with humans and enchantment with God alone allows us to grow up, put on our big-girl panties or our big-boy boxers, and be the responsible, spiritually mature adults that God created us to be. Instead of fantasizing about another person meeting all of our needs and bartering with our bodies for the attention and affection we crave, we’re able to pay attention to the genuine needs of others and express affection toward our loved ones in healthy, holy ways. BEHIND THE CURTAIN: SEARCHING FOR THE SOFTER SIDE OF GOD My mom spent most of her career as a salesclerk at Sears, Roebuck and Co., so we not only had stock in Sears but also had Kenmore appliances throughout the kitchen and laundry room and Toughskins jeans in our closets. So I clearly remember when Sears introduced a new marketing campaign with the slogan “Come See the Softer Side of Sears.” The store wanted to make consumers aware that they weren’t just about Craftsman tools and DieHard batteries but also about little black dresses, sleek heels to go with those dresses, and jewelry and purses. Sears wasn’t just a “man’s store” but a place where both men and women could shop for whatever they needed. I’d like to start a similar campaign with the slogan “Come See the Softer Side of God!” We have grown up knowing that God is great at fighting battles and slaying enemies and doing all sorts of hard, manly tasks, but do we recognize that He is equally good at being soft? Can we sense God scooping us up to take comfort in His lap, gently brushing our tears away, or enveloping us in a warm embrace? Unfortunately we often equate softness exclusively with femininity, and since our God paradigm is so masculine, it’s hard to fathom God being the feminine nurturer we often crave. So what do we do when we (falsely) assume that God doesn’t possess the softness that we crave? We naturally gravitate in the only direction we know to look—toward women—in the only way we know how—sexually. You’d have to be hiding under a rock not to notice how much our culture idolizes the female body. I’m not saying that there’s nothing sexy about the male physique, but most men acknowledge that their bodies pale in comparison to those of women. Without women willing to take their clothes off, the porn industry would fold. We have elevated the image of the sexy woman (think Marilyn Monroe, Beyoncé Knowles, and Kate Upton) to goddess status, and society bows down to that image (and many others like it) with time, attention, money, and sexual energies. And there appears to be something that magically draws men (and women) in the direction of the sensuous female image. I believe there are two reasons for this supernatural pull: our longing for connection with the softer side of humanity and our longing for connection with the softer side of God. We are hardwired as human beings to want closeness with a female because of the familiarity she represents. Life can be likened to a quest where we can only make sense of the journey by returning to our original destination. For humans this equates to a fascination with orgasm and the female body, for that is where we originated. As a result of orgasm, we are conceived, and our first experiences take place not in a labor and delivery room but in the female uterus and vagina. The womb is our first home. No wonder the female genitalia are a mesmerizing mystery—to both men and women! And the moment we emerge from that womb, we are immediately thrust . . . where? Not to the male breast but to the female breast. It becomes our new home, from which breakfast, lunch, and dinner flow. I was recently visiting a friend who’d just had a baby, and the baby’s fussiness level revealed it was feeding time. The newborn squirmed and squealed relentlessly until her mom brought her to the breast, and then she relaxed completely, whimpering multiple sighs of relief and contentment. Our survival instincts make the connection that this soft, warm place is where comfort, security, and nourishment reside. Therefore, future emotional cravings for comfort and fulfillment might naturally result in an overwhelming desire to return to the powerful mental image of the breast. This desire is what drives many to distraction—looking at pornography, visiting topless bars and strip clubs, seeking a prostitute, a sexual affair, or a lesbian partner. But could there be an even deeper spiritual longing behind such sexual longings? I believe so because we are also hardwired to desire intimate connection, not just with earthly softness but also with sacred softness—the side of God that represents femininity. Because both men and women are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), it is a reasonable conclusion that God is neither male nor female but both. He is the perfect combination of masculinity and femininity. Since most denominations embrace a strictly masculine image of God, we only hear Him referred to as “Father,” never as “Mother.” This creates two psychological dilemmas. First, for the woman who was abused by her father or a significant male in her life, connecting with God as Father can feel like a dangerous proposition. She might feel safer connecting with God as a Mother since mothers often paint a softer, gentler picture of God in our minds than our fathers do. Second, for the man who longs for relational intimacy, where can he go? Most likely he has been culturally conditioned that only gay men turn to other men. And because, in his mind, God is a male figure, it is a challenge to make the mental, emotional, and spiritual connection that God is the source of the fulfillment he seeks. He naturally turns to women instead. But women can’t fulfill men any better than men can fulfill women. Oh, we try. But we are draining each other dry, growing more and more disillusioned with how the opposite sex can never measure up to our expectations or meet all of our emotional and sexual needs. We weren’t designed to fully complete each other, only to complement one another. We must look to God to complete us. This can be done only as we embrace not just the masculine side of God but also the feminine side. If you are thinking this sounds more “new agey” than biblical, consider that the Hebrew word shaddai comes from the root word “breast,” and one of the most common words for God, El Shaddai (used forty-eight times in the Old Testament), can be translated “many-breasted one.” 5 In other words, God is not just the Father figure who protects and provides; He is also the Mother figure who nourishes and comforts. This is a God who can meet all our needs . . . if only we would let Him.

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