Some days the struggles are more difficult than other days. This is Lent so speaking about struggles is more than appropriate. This is one the fears of my life: I can fall back into sin at anytime. Of course God’s grace does abound, but still, there is also that worry that this time the fall might be so hard , so deep that despair sets in. The worst thing possible is falling away from the faith for a long time, perhaps forever.
So how do we combat this? What I have found essential are things such as: prayer, friends, loving others, giving of oneself, avoiding certain things, among other things. Perhaps most important is simply trusting in God that all this is for a purpose. At least those are my methods. Many of my questions about temptations revolve around what is normal and healthy, and what is not. A big question of mine is : what is healthy erotic desire? I was reading something the other day about a man who said that in order to avoid sexual sins he needed to avoid all occasions of sin. This meant even changing his driving habits so as to avoid certain provocative billboards. Now I am sure this is a good thing for him. I support anyone, especially men, who are trying to overcome the slavery to sexual sin. For me, however, this would be a bit too much. It is simply an unavoidable part of life that we are surrounded by eroticism and desire. Although I think learning how to control and master those things are necessary, so that they do not end up controlling you, we cannot flee them entirely. Nor should we. The problem I always face in dealing with sexual issue is not going too far in either direction, whether debauchery or overly rigid attempts at purity. I think hedonistic pleasure seeking and overly zealous purity seeking are two sides of the same coin. People sometimes do go too far in the purity side and begin to do slightly crazy things in the name of chastity. For instance, it is said that Origen, a theologian who lived around 185-254 A.D., castrated himself in order to avoid lusting after others. Now this is an extreme example, but I think changing your driving habits so as to avoid certain billboards is another, albeit much lesser, example. Yes, exercise restraint with your eyes and thoughts, but I really do not believe there is anything wrong with feeling desire for another person when you see them, even when in an image. A man could really drive himself crazy by trying to avoid looking at every woman he comes across in the course of a day. An appreciation of feminine beauty, for instance, only becomes wrong and harmful when desire becomes lust and that begins to control you. I do believe however that we can appreciate the beauty of this world in all its forms without it being a bad or harmful thing, so long as we do it in a healthy and, for me, Christian way.
I struggle with deep desires on a daily basis. This has been the case my whole life. And although I have come to understand and appreciate the values of a life lived in restraint, or even in abstinence and chastity, still, certain kinds of beauty, if enjoyed properly, are a great blessing to life. I commend all those who struggle with sexual issues and overcome them or change their lives for the better, this is a good and great and needed thing. I know these struggles all too well myself. We need more people to testify to these problems today. But sometimes going too far in the direction of absolute purity will probably turn away many people who might be open to the message of chaste living. So as I said above, I think it is entirely possible to live a chaste life and still appreciate and enjoy all the beautiful things of this world. As a matter of fact, I will go so far as to say that good and healthy desires are heightened and deepened through chaste living. But I will save that for my next post.