C.S Lewis once said, “It would seem Our Lord Finds our desires not to strong but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he can not imagine what is meant by a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to what we have done with sex and marriage in our culture. We have created a mess.
The problem is not desire. The problem is that when we try to fill the desire the wrong way (not just sexual desire), it get’s in the way of the right way of fulfilling it.
Sixty years ago 60% of people aged 18-29 were married. Today only 20% of that same demographic has ever been married. That is a dramatic change. We are typically entering puberty earlier (there’s not space here to go into why) and yet waiting longer to get married. So where as we used to say, “just wait 5 years or so to be married”, now we basically say, “just wait 15 years to have sex”. Thats crazy! The problem is cyclical because in one sense it’s harder to wait that long, but in another sense because people are giving up and meeting that desire other ways, it is making people have less desire to get married.
Paul writes in 1st Corinthians that if you want to have sex, get married. He basically says, “rather than burn with unmet desire, get married and meet it the right way.” But this is a far cry from where we are at today, even in the Church.
We mess this up a lot of different ways and none of them help us when we are single or even later when we get married.
One plan often offered is to kill the desire. This is where we just basically tell people sex is bad, don’t have it. We may not say it but we essentially end up leading people there. This is a horrible idea because desire for sex isn’t bad Being controlled by it (or any other desire) is but the desire for sex and intimacy is a huge part of the reason for marriage. Worst of all, if I get married, I won’t be able to just flip a switch that all of a sudden makes sex good.
But more often what we do is go out and meet our desire for sex in some other way. Sometimes this means having sex outside of marriage. This does not lead down a path to marriage. That’s not to say that people who do this don’t get married but it doesn’t increase the chances. This is why so many people who live together end up not getting married. Playing house and being married are not the same thing. Sex before covenant is never beneficial.
But the biggest problem in the church right now is what I call Lazy Sexual Immorality. This is where I don’t meet my sexual need with another person at all. Instead I just watch, read or think about someone else doing it and “meet” my need that way. Tony Campolo once said, “If you are going to sin, at least do it boldly.” These are the opposite of bold. They are gutless.
If you are under 30 you have seen internet porn. It’s just the truth. You have. The average age a person first sees it right now is 11. Read that again. Now this screws us up in all sorts of ways. But fantasy and habitual masturbation are right behind it. They are all ways that we can meet our needs without having to “involve” someone else. And they are killing us. I have a friend who says that every guy thinks marriage is going to be a porn movie and every girl thinks it’s going to be a romance novel. It’s not either. It should be better. But that is what we are expecting, and when it doesn’t happen we bail.
When we meet our sexual desire outside of marriage it leads us away from marriage. Either we get our desire met, and therefore don’t want to make the sacrifices to meet them in the right way, or we get wrapped up in our shame and guilt and therefore either can’t engage the real thing or feel like we don’t now “deserve” it. Usually some sick twisted combination of all of the above.
It’s a nasty cycle and a lot of people are in it. I’ve been in it many times in one form or another. Fortunately, you don’t have to stay in it. I’m going to write more on that soon. But for today the question really is this: What are you doing with your sexual desire? How are you meeting it? Do you see how that affects you from engaging the real thing?