Faded into a thin grey on the back of my hand are the words “Lust, objects, and properties”. That probably doesn’t make a bit of sense to anyone in the world except for me…we’ll see, but, first, C.S. Lewis once said that “a man cannot always be defending the truth; he must also feast on it”, and that’s what I’m trying to do in this post. Here I presuppose much that will be outrightly rejected by many people. That’s fine. If I never did that, I would probably be restricted to arguing over whether or not massive, primordial, indeterministic quantum fluctuations can produce a universe, or if our senses are reliable. This is a post about sexuality primarily, so those who don’t share my presuppositions are welcome to read or to ignore it. My thought though is that godless sex is something like feasting on candy all the time – sweet, but devastatingly unfulfilling, and poisonous. That said…
Our society is very lust-driven. And I’m not speaking just in terms of sexual lust. You can lust over nearly anything – as long as you desire it. Now, lust is a tricky thing to define. I know. I’m driven to consider it often, and the best I can come up with is that lust has something to do with desiring something in a wrong way. To flesh that out a little bit, let’s take sexual lust as an example. What’s going on there? To stick with our initial, yet vague definition of lust, we would simply say that sexual lust is sexually desiring a person in a wrong way.
Notice that that definition leaves wide open the possibility of sexually desiring a person in a right way. I didn’t phrase it “sexual lust is desiring a person wrongly” – that would seem to say that sexual desire is naturally, and inherently wrong, but that’s far from the case. Actually, in its most natural setting, it is entirely good. We were created with specifically tailored bodies, that correspond to our natural understanding of beauty so that, when a man sees a woman, he finds her beautiful and desirable, – a place where his strength and capabilities are welcome and needed – and when a woman sees a man, she sees in him strength, support, and safety – a place where her softness is welcome, her needs are met, and the artistry of her body is appreciated. This is sexual desire in its natural state, and, in its natural state, it is a great thing, but it can be misused; it can be twisted, becoming worthless and base. What does that twisting perversion look like?
This mans that sexual desire, in its natural form, is more than a physical yearning. If I’m even close to right in my understanding of sexuality given above, then sex is something more than the firing of neurons elicited by the friction between lubricated muscles that culminates in a relatively weak release of electricity in the cerebral cortex which runs down the spinal column to the genitals releasing fluids. That certainly goes on, but sexuality is primarily about abstract notions – needs, values, beauty, love, strength, safety, comfort, etc, and explaining something as overwhelmingly beautiful as sex with those cold, material descriptions is tragic. You might as well tell a wonderstruck child, when he asks “what is the wind?” that it’s just the fluttering of the curtains. This is what many of us are left with today though – silly, flapping curtains. But anyone who’s ever stood on a cliff and felt the heroic blast of mountain air threaten to throw him down would laugh at, and pity anyone who thinks wind is all about flapping curtains – certainly, anyone who’s even heard of a tornado, or a rainstorm has known the wind better.
So, there’s more to sex than rubbing body parts – but what? Like the curtain, sex is the visible, physical side of what’s going on in the abstract, deeper realms. That is, the rubbing of bodies MEANS SOMETHING. Sex is like a word, and it has a real, concrete meaning. It can’t just mean anything, even though we treat it like it can. Just like a word, when we try to adorn it and exalt it to where it can mean anything, it actually loses all meaning, even the one it originally had, and becomes useless. And here is where the divide between the glory of sex, and the foulness of lust is found. We can locate it through an observation and a question. First, sex, like a word, was crafted to express something specific, and using it any other way is perversion. So, what do we mean when we’re having sex?
Sex takes place in two realms, the physical realm, and the transcendent realm. Our bodies collide and fumble around in the physical realm while our souls caress and quake in the transcendent. The meaning behind sex lies in the transcendent realm, the expression in the physical realm. The transcendental realm is where we believe and feel and know and love, the physical realm is where we say it. Our minds and hearts make their home in the transcendent, our lips and hands in the physical. Real, beautiful, fulfilling sex is had when, 1) in our transcendent, immaterial minds and hearts, we know the other, graciously and selflessly love the other, desire good for them, and are resolved to meet their needs in accordance with the truth and 2) our physical expressions match those beliefs and values. Lust is when something is corrupt or lacking in the transcendent realm, but we entertain, either in our minds or with our bodies, the desire to go ahead and say something we don’t mean. Lust, then, is sexual deception.