Ordering Our Loves
By: Jessica Gracewski
Growing up, lust was a confusing topic. In my church upbringing, lust was defined as what you could and could not do with your significant other. It meant the avoidance of feelings associated with sexual desire and led to behavior modification plans, rules, and absolutely no two-piece bathing suits at summer camp! Further into adulthood, this view of lust became a normal part of male and female interactions. Without a proper definition, the feelings associated with lust came to be synonymous with my view of love. Because I thought lust equated love, I lived my life beneath a distorted identity that I was only lovable if I was seen as attractive and sexually desirable. As a result, all my actions, decisions, and longings of my heart were motivated by this pursuit. These were all a misunderstanding of God’s true intentions for me.
Lust is the misuse of sex for personal gratification, debasing it from the holy purpose for which God has given it to us (St. Augustine’s Prayer Book). That holy purpose is explained in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” While our sexuality is an integral part of how we were created, lust is a form of sexual idolatry that binds, enslaves, and refuses the gift of sex that God has intended for us. In its unredeemed state, lust disrupts our ordered sexuality, resulting in the objectification and oppression of our bodies, and the misuse of sex for the sake of our own greed and pleasure. “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). Instead of the wholeness, intimacy, and love that God intends for us with the gift of sex, we distort its purpose and misuse it for power and control.
I never realized the consequences of lust until I saw how it affected my relationships. Friendships and potential romantic relationships that should have been characterized by selfless love and pure motive were tainted by competition, objectification, and bitterness. As a result of these experiences, I found my heart hardened to trusting that true intimacy was possible in relationships. Thinking I was the only woman who struggled with lust, I became ashamed, embarrassed, and disconnected. I chose to build tall walls around my heart as a way to protect myself. In spite of my defensive isolation, God placed people in my life to show me that healthy friendships and relationships were possible and that struggles with lust could be freely discussed and redeemed in community. They helped me commit to re-learning Christ’s true intention for my sexuality and how to embark on the great journey of pursuing Christ and a pure heart.
Purity of heart is to have a proper love for everything and everyone. Proper love acknowledges sexuality for the good that it is without giving it the power to be everything. It is through a primary affection for God that we are able to properly appreciate all things in accordance with their Godly design. Purity of heart is the refusal to use our natural appetites for the primary sake of our selfish pleasure. God focuses on our hearts so intently because He knows that it is the starting place for all wholeness or brokenness in our lives. As Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
In my immature heart, I expect God to give me my desires in my specific timeline. In response, the Holy Spirit often reminds me that the gift of a pure heart must be continuously cultivated, and it will take time. Today, my pursuit of celibacy as a not yet married woman can be harder in some seasons than others, but God continues to give me purpose, provision, and grace for as long as He wills it. Purpose in that when I ask for guidance, He will give it to me. Provision of community which He gives through my church body, friendships, and intimate times with God. And finally, I receive continual grace knowing that in my imperfect pursuit of Christ, He will both allow for and lift me up in times of trial. God relentlessly shows us He does not ignore our longings and is continually creating a steadfast spirit and purity that can only come from Him (Psalm 51:10). As Christians, we are called to wisdom, trust, and faith.
What would it look like to, in freedom, bring the truth of your longings to a God that loves you and trust that He will be with you?
Take some time to share your thoughts and emotions surrounding sexuality with the Lord. Is there any fear, shame, or longing?
How might God be inviting you to share your process of sexuality with others? How might He be inviting you to be a safe place to let someone else share theirs?
RSF Podcasts For Further Study:
This blog is a part of our Live Into Who You Are series where we share personal reflections of how the Holy Spirit redeems a heart. Traditional vice and virtue pairings are used to help share and structure these reflections. Read more posts here.