What can you say when a young man seems to be struggling over and over with the same sin? On the one hand he hates it and on the other he loves it. So what kind of counsel can you give? The short answer is the answer that we should always turn to: The Gospel. For those of us that have forgotten let me remind you, this means "good news." Good news is not the same as excusing sin but it also does not mean loading a boat load of guilt and shame on the back of a young man or woman already burdened by their sin. Fortunately the Gospel is simple enough to be grasped by a small child but is also vast and deep enough to provide a pool of resources to prevent you from needing to become a broken one dimensional record.
Below is a letter I wrote to a young man struggling with lust and who had fallen once again. My hope in this letter was to remind him of the grace of God as well as the significance of the sin that he continued to turn to using some analogies that I thought might be helpful. I hope you find the letter helpful as well.
I was praying for you this morning and reflecting on the last fall you had. The focus of my prayer was directed at asking God to grant you a growing keenness and awareness of your actions. It’s so easy to allow life to slip by in a thoughtless series of reflexes. Many men go through their whole life doing things and thinking things based solely on the urges they feel in the moment. This way of approaching life could hardly be called making decisions. It is more appropriate for animals than men. And yet men often ignore the responsibility that attends the blessing of being divine image bearers and choose to behave as if our impulses are the standard of acceptable behavior.
As I mentioned previously, this is the modus operandi of childishness. So as I pray for you I pray that this aspect of childishness will be replaced by an acute mindfulness of the motivation and telos of every decision you make. As Paul admonished the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 10:5 “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” This means we are always on our guard, and it also means that we have a healthy suspicion of our own motives because as Jeremiah announces in Chapter 17:9 of his denunciation against rebellious Israel, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
I fully understand why within the course of three fleeting minutes you could turn from Albertus Magnus to masturbation. Your approach to the latter subject has until now lacked the kind of mindfulness that should always be present whenever we approach a subject of power, potency and importance.
But until now, it appears that your approach toward masturbation and probably your sexuality in general is more akin to the character Scotty Smalls in the movie the Sand Lot in the infamous but hilarious “great Bambino scene.”
You can see a clip of that scene here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyFaLT-L2uk
But remember how Scotty, needing a ball to play baseball with grabbed the signed baseball from his step-dad’s room and used it to play with not having any clue that it had been signed by Babe Ruth. And of course the ball gets destroyed and hilarity ensues. We laugh and groan at Scotty, but we areoften like that with things far more important than a baseball … even one signed by The Great Bambino himself.
Our tongues are great examples. We often “play ball” with them without understanding just how special they are and how much trouble we will get in when we don’t use them correctly.
We often “play” with our sexuality, whether we’re talking about masturbation, or relationships with flesh and blood girls, or any other manifestation, not really understanding just how special it is and how dangerous the consequences of misuse will be. This is especially the case if we discover our sexuality early on and don’t have guidance to help us understand just how special a gift our sexuality is. We spend those formative years allowing our urges and desire for pleasure to create habits that are entirely disconnected from our critical thinking.
So the fact that earlier this week you treated masturbation along the reflexive lines of a sexual sneeze is actually really understandable. But understandable is not the same thing as acceptable. Thank God that He is patient with us in our spiritual immaturity. Thank God that His grace is big enough and generous enough to cover over even those sins not done in ignorance.
So my prayer for you now is that having been enlightened you would now approach your sexuality in general and masturbation in particular with the kind of care that it deserves. And like a high voltage line fallen to the ground you will have eyes to see the danger and to avoid it. Electricity is good. And the electricity that accompanies sex is also good. But without the insulation of marriage, what is good simply becomes deadly.
Your friend in the fight,