You don’t have to wait any long stretch of time for me to find my way back to guilty. Though I am absolved of my sins–and I cling to, and believe that with all my heart–there’s something inside of me that thirsts for the darkness. I make space for it, create plans around it, then get myself alone with it and do things Christian conservatives the world over would riot about. I’m not proud of it, but when that boy comes calling for me desire only leaves room for “yes”. I can’t say no even when I want to.
I’ve tried not talking to him. Tried not thinking about him. Tried squaring up in front of a mirror and telling myself no. I have tried every approach short of chaining myself to the bed, but I always seem to find myself with him in places I’ll regret being in the morning. It never feels good when it’s over, but if I can numb myself out on girl’s nights and travel blogs long enough, eventually I’ll forget about the regret and slip right back into the wanting – and the wanting? Well, it doesn’t make me feel guilty as much as it makes me feel...hungry. I guess betrayal doesn’t always taste bitter, sometimes it's to die for.
I am not unlike many single women. I’m – you know, distracted. A twenty-something marked by unfounded optimism and too much Instagram, I live far away from my Father’s voice in Netflix binges so deep that the only way out is a bad internet connection. Consequently, I have a hard time being in the world and not of it. I forget: my worth, my God, the truth. I ignore the still, small voice and opt for the one screaming in my face, the one I don’t have the stomach to dismiss: my ego. I am a broken, ambitious slave to my ego, and that’s how she’d like to keep it.
Our egos seem fragile but they are mighty and they are ravenous. They never stop gnawing and they never stop needing. In fact, most of my decisions are an attempt to appease my ego. I do things because I want to feel better, or because I want to feel better than. I will buy, volunteer, or even allow myself affection from a man who isn’t mine all because my ego needs a boost. She is my worst enemy and I am her loyal subject and I will never stop trying to satisfy her so long as she keeps me focused on me. But what rips the hope out from under me is that when I’m finally ready to be rid of her folly, it ends up in sound bites we’ve mistaken for wisdom.
Christians think that the antidote to low self-esteem is high self-esteem. We think if someone’s forgotten their value, the answer is to remind them of it. We say things like “You are God’s masterpiece” and “You are worthy”. We point people back to themselves. Isn’t that funny? The collective church response – especially when it comes to sexual sin – is to use the same tactics our own egos would use. As if a better reflection of self is the key to resisting temptation. Let me tell you something: the reason sinners won't quit sinning is not because we don’t value ourselves – it’s because we won’t die to ourselves.
I have kept alive what I should have laid to rest a long time ago. I have fostered, and kindled, and resuscitated my great and gluttonous longing, only to find myself more depleted at having satisfied it. I have wrangled and roped and tied intricate knots only to find that I was the one in chains. And isn’t that just like sin – to let us think we’re in control until we find ourselves in a chokehold? Our appetites, our egos are usurpers, so leave a watcher in the throne room.
Listen, I could give you a robust and compelling case as to why God says I’m date-worthy. I could string together all the empowering, self-glorifying quotes I’ve ever saved on Pinterest and we’d both walk away thinking that we were strong, beautiful women worthy of being waited on. But when I find myself in the throes of temptation, the last thing I need to hear is a long list of reasons why this guy should be buying me dinner first.
The truth is, sin isn’t conquered by self-empowerment, it’s conquered by blood. Perfect blood. Innocent blood. Blood far more precious than yours and mine. In our darkest moments when our only concern is to quench our endless thirst, no amount of self-worth is going to save us. The only way we defeat our desire is not by remembering who we are, it’s by remembering who He is.
Tell me, when was the last time you looked up at an ocean of midnight stars and marveled at your maker? When was the last time you were so consumed by the nature of Him that you actually got lost in it – in His steadfast and merciful heart? He is the all consuming, never ending, reigning cosmic King. The soft, warm wind and the still, small voice. He is deep and vast and wild whose thunder echoes in our bones, whose fingers traced our perfect lines. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the great I Am, the one sovereign God whose love awakens the dead.
He is our richest treasure. He is our great escape. He is who we must value above even ourselves, because whether or not we walk away from temptation, He is with us: redeeming, renewing and setting us free. He untangles us from our sin, even when we’ve roamed so willingly into its clutches. He is the unfailing, everlasting lover of our souls, and it is only when we collapse into His grace that we have strength enough to walk away. So draw nearer, come closer, get as far from you as possible. Fall down on your face and let mercy stand you up tall. Lift your eyes, sisters. Deliverance is here.