Wednesday, March 10, 2010

4-Chocolate, Fear, Sex, and Temptation (Not Necessarily in that Order)

© 2010 David’s Harp and Pen

It would be remiss of me to talk about the plight of the single Christian woman without talking about sex. Normally, though, I don’t like to write about things in which I have such little experience, so I guess I will have to wing it. Having reached my 35th year with my virginity still intact, I realized that I was a growing rarity in today’s society. It was actually very easy for me to maintain my purity for three and a half decades. It had finally dawned on me why I had reached middle age and was still single. I would meet a nice guy. We would hit it off. We’d go on a few dates and have a few laughs. Then, I would speak…and it would all go downhill from there. So, my natural ability to stick my foot in my mouth when interacting with the opposite sex helped reduce opportunities for sexual temptation tremendously. The other saving grace for me, and countless other Christ-followers, was chocolate.

Recent studies have shown that chocolate satisfies the same part of the brain that is satisfied by sex. So, whenever I would meet a guy I found myself remotely attracted to, the first thing I would do is head to Shopper’s Warehouse and buy up the industrial vat of peanut butter cups. Now, most people think of chocolate as comfort food only for women, but I know many a good Christian man who secretly indulged in it in order to make it to his wedding night a virgin. In fact, Shane consumed so much chocolate in his pursuit of sexual purity that chocolate producers in Hershey, Pennsylvania have erected a statue of him in the town square.

One day, shortly after Ryan’s arrival, Shane decided to go on a 40-day chocolate fast, and me being the gullible supportive friend I am, agreed to do it with him. We put a temptation clause in the agreement, though, that if he faced sexual temptation, he was allowed to have what we referred to as “spiritually necessary chocolate.” Now, I can always tell how great the temptation is that he’s facing on a given day based on the manner and volume of his chocolate consumption, and Satan was not kind to Shane during those 40 days. One of the reasons he wanted to do the chocolate fast was to lose weight, but in light of how random women throw themselves at him, I think he should’ve been working on making himself LESS attractive. On Day 7, I rode with Shane in his car to a concert, and when I got in the passenger seat, I stepped into ankle-deep peanut butter cup wrappers. Day 13 must’ve been particularly rough for Shane, too, because when he arrived at worship team practice, he pulled five chocolate bars from his backpack, unwrapped them, stacked them on top of one another, and ate them all together. However, the worst was Day 21. He came by my house shortly before midnight after having been at auditions all day for a travelling musical. I could only imagine what he saw there, what with all those showgirls. When I opened the door, there he stood, his face and clothing smeared with chocolate syrup and his hair full of chocolate cake crumbs. My mouth dropped open and I stared in shock, but before I could say anything, he looked at me with fire in his eyes and said in a psychotic tone, “Don’t judge me!”

I was dealing with temptation of my own at the time. However, I was not afforded the luxury of “spiritually necessary chocolate.” I don’t know which was worse, that he was a walking Ho-Ho or that when I helped him clean up, I wanted to snag some of those chocolate cake crumbs in his hair for myself.

Some would say, “Avoiding temptation with chocolate? That doesn’t sound very spiritual.” The thing is, though, when a person is trying to break free from habitual sin, and everything else he or she has tried failed, he or she must get creative, especially since, when it comes to creating temptation, Satan is extremely creative. For example, if a person’s struggle is with rage, Satan will cause that person to be stuck in traffic on the interstate for three hours because everyone on the road has stopped to watch someone change a tire. If a person’s struggle is gluttony, Satan will cause discount Chinese buffets to sprout up on every block within a 50-mile radius of the person’s home. If, in Shane’s case, the struggle is with sexual addiction, Satan will see to it that the hotel where Shane works hosts the International Hooters Convention. The Bible says in I Corinthians 10:13 there’s no temptation that comes against us except that which is experienced by everyone. However, Satan will tell the tempted that they are a special case, that they’re extremely unspiritual to be facing that temptation, and are therefore hopeless to resist it. I know. I know. It’s dirty. It’s underhanded. That’s why Satan is called Satan! Hello?!

There’s a second problem with temptation, though. If one faces the same temptation for a while, one really does start to doubt their spiritual state. However, being tempted isn’t a sin. It’s the yielding to the temptation that’s the problem. It’s also a process and a question of comparison. I guess what I want to say is some struggles go away the minute we get saved, but others take time. For Shane, the important thing is that he finishes the process to master temptation, not that he finishes it quickly, and he’s come so far in his quest for purity. Before he was saved, he was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List for endless felony counts of interstate hit-and-run dating and fleeing the scene of the relationship. Now, he still has to take his Antabuses whenever Victoria’s Secret mails out their catalogs, but compared to where he was, this was a major step forward. (I thought it was a shame Shane couldn’t be like Bruno, who avoided temptation with women simply by remaining bitter towards them.)

The final problem with temptation, and the most serious in my opinion, is that it is so tempting. As I said earlier, Satan does more than his fair share to dangle the golden carrot in front of our faces, but he can’t take all the blame. We are often led down the wrong path, too, by our own desires. It was easy for me to resist sexual temptation all those years because I didn’t know what I was missing. However, since Shane had already tasted the forbidden fruit, and saw that it was good (okay, not good, but definitely fun in the short run), it was that much easier for him to give in to temptation every time the opportunity presented itself.

Purity for the Christian is much more involved than non-Christians think. True purity is holistic, in that it includes not only how we act but also how we think. Jesus said that to even look at another with lust is tantamount to doing the deed in our hearts. Therefore, the first and last battlegrounds for purity are our minds and hearts. Prayer, the Word, daily renewal by the Holy Spirit, and fellowship with other believers are our first line of defense against the trappings of sin, Satan, and our flesh. After that, as stated earlier, chocolate is a wonderful and highly enjoyable spiritual supplement. However, for Shane and me, it was a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough to not want to sin, but to develop a burning, overwhelming craving for what was good, which was also a process.

Speaking of the process, mine had been long and arduous. My recurring temptation hadn’t been as obvious as Shane’s. Mine was fear or, more specifically, an insecurity that was sometimes so crippling I couldn’t do anything. I had been pretty good at hiding it. In fact, in some Christian circles, insecurity easily passes for humility. However, I knew in my heart that letting myself be ruled by fear was just as offensive to God as any other sin I could commit. The day finally came when my fear and my faith had a head-on collision.

Shane and I had plans, along with some others from church, to go to this swank new restaurant in town to celebrate Shane getting hired for a series of motorcycle commercials. I was on crutches because of the bear trap I stepped in when Bruno, Ryan, and I had to chase my dog Bernie through the neighborhood. Some of the people in our group were already at the restaurant and had gotten a table when we arrived. When Shane and I pulled into the parking lot, I looked in despair at the staircase leading to the restaurant. There must have been at least a thousand steps. There were wheelchair ramps, but they were long and zig-zaggy. At that moment, it dawned on me why the place was called Skyline Bistro.

“Oh, Shane! How am I ever going to get up all those steps?” I moaned as we reached the curb.

“I’ll run in and see if they have a wheelchair or something,” Shane answered. Then, because he’s in such great shape, he traversed all those steps with the grace, speed, and agility of an elk.

The moment of truth had arrived for me. As I began to painfully climb the stairs, temptation came to meet me. The tape in my head started to play, with all the familiar lies, telling me I was a klutz, stupid, etc., telling me that everyone around me was watching me fumble with my crutches and making fun of me to themselves. Temptation told me to agree with Satan, to freak out, to believe fear and insecurity would always master me. However, just like Joseph said that what some would mean for evil, God could turn around for good, I realized that maybe, just maybe, this moment which Satan had meant to enslave me further to fear was also an opportunity sent from God to liberate me from it. I paused on the third step and prayed, “God, you said that You won’t let me be tempted beyond what I can bear, and if the temptation is too great, You would provide a way of escape. Fear and insecurity are telling me that I can’t live without them. And I’ll be honest God. I don’t have the desire to fight, or even try to fight. Help me! Show me the way of escape! Show me how…”

My silent prayer was interrupted when I felt an arm around my waist. I looked to see whom it was attached to, and it was Ryan. He pulled me tight next to him. He then took my crutches and handed them to Bruno, who had driven himself and Ryan to the restaurant.

“Bruno, would you carry these, please?” Ryan asked Bruno. When Bruno took the crutches, Ryan swept me up into his arms, looked at me, and said, “Don’t worry, Darlin’, I’ve got you. Just hold on.”

So, he carried me in his arms up all thousand stairs, except now that I was climbing the steps in a much more enjoyable fashion, there didn’t seem to be quite as many. I felt like I was in a bit of dream world, ‘til I remembered that his hand was still bandaged up from getting caught in my car door. I looked at him and said, “You don’t have to do this.”

“Of course I do. The place would’ve closed by the time you got up the steps,” Ryan replied.

“But, what about your hand?”

“You worry about holding on and let me worry about my hand, alright?”

He carried me in to the restaurant and all the way to our table. I still wasn’t sure if I was imagining the whole thing until I saw the flock of female servers huddled in a corner, staring at Ryan and me and cooing. One of them walked up to us as Ryan lowered me into my seat and asked, “Are you okay?”

As happens regularly, I lost my powers of speech temporarily, which in that case, was definitely for my benefit. Ryan answered, “She’s fine. She’s just on crutches right now and needed help with stairs.”

“Wow! That was really cool!” The waitress said gushingly, obviously enamored with Ryan.

Ryan looked at me and said, “Anything for the Dog Whisperer.”

I looked back at him and prayed silently, “God, when it comes to answering prayer, you really outdid yourself this time.”

Dinner went well, and then our waiter came by to ask us if we wanted any dessert.

“Mags, since we’re celebrating, go ahead and have some chocolate. My treat,” Shane said.

“Really?” I asked. Then I turned to the waiter and said, “Ooh, let me see your dessert menu.”

The waiter handed me a menu, and as I poured over my chocolate dessert options, I thought about the huge milestone I had just reached. Maybe I could now move forward successfully in my fight against fear, insecurity, and self-consciousness, and I could eat chocolate because I wanted to, not because I needed to. The thrill of victory was to be short-lived, however, when I once again decided to speak.

“How is your chocolate mocha cheesecake? I mean, is it everything the menu says it is, because it’s been a long time since I’ve had any chocolate. I mean, forever. I mean, I don’t think I even remember what it tastes like. And it’s been ssoooooooooo hard going without it. I mean, I can’t go into the gas station and pass the candy bar aisle without going into hypoglycemic shock,” I ranted.

The waiter looked at me strangely and replied, “Ah, tell you what. I’ll bring you a piece. If you don’t like it, I’ll bring you something else.”

As soon as the waiter left, Bruno looked at me and said, “You know, Mags, if I didn’t know you, I’d think you were talking about how long it had been since you last had sex.”

All the guys at the table started laughing at me. I blushed so much I thought my face would burst into flames. That’s the problem with hanging out with guys all the time. No matter how godly they may be, once in a blue moon, they will let their minds wander to the gutter.

“And you know, Mags, chocolate is also slang for men of color,” Shane chimed in.

Once again, talking without thinking, I looked at Shane and cried, “It’s not fair! You get to have chocolate instead of sex! Why can’t I have chocolate instead of chocolate?”

Everyone laughed even harder as the waiter returned with my cheesecake. I tried inconspicuously to eat a few bites. I felt that temptation creep in to dog myself and play the tape again in my head. Shane turned to Ryan and said, “She’s such a dork!”

Ryan replied, “No she’s not. She’s absolutely fantastic.” That brought tape playback to a screeching halt! The waiter returned to our table and asked me, “So, how’s the cheesecake?”

Slightly delirious with glee, I answered, “It’s wonderful, but I can tell you right now, I’m definitely going to need another one.”

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