In regard to the chapter title, I made the following comment to a female friend: “All kidding aside, men really are evil.” To which she responded, “Please don’t say that. I struggle as it is to think well of men.” Referring to men as a ticking bomb is not meant to incite hostility or fear between the sexes but to surface the truth that, like a bomb (or a perhaps a chainsaw), men must be understood and handled correctly or they may hurt you.
Men may, in fact, become an enemy, for only an enemy feigns care and commitment while scheming a way to rob you of your most prized possession (purity), keeping you distracted with conversation while hurriedly squeezing your sofa out the back door. You, my dear ladies, possess something your physiological counterpart needs—craves, really. And like a junkie, he will often do or say anything to get his sexual fix.
But perhaps Melissa (that’s my friend’s name) is right and I should be more careful with labels. Perhaps fire is a better metaphor, for not all men are ticking bombs, but all men are like fire, bringing warmth and light while at the same time remaining capable of blazing out of control. Leave those curtain pulls dangling too close to the candle, and the whole house may wind up in ashes.
While you’ll hear from the perspective of women throughout Fantasy , I think it’s wise to begin this journey with a look at the flame. I will be the selfappointed spokesperson for the entire inferno of manhood, divulging classifi ed information and helping you to better understand how the flame burns. And it does burn.
For instructional purposes, we’re going to do something one should never do: make broad, sweeping generalizations about humanity. This is allowable because we are stereotyping men and not women and because we have a good biblical basis for doing so.
In the third chapter of 1 Corinthians the apostle Paul describes three types of people: The unbeliever, the godly man, and the worldly Christian:
Unbeliever : “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Godly man : “The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment“ (1 Corinthians 2:15).
Worldly Christian : “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly mere infants in Christ. ... You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1, 3).
Following Paul’s logic, we want to collate all men into one of these three spiritual file folders: worldly non- Christians, godly Christians, and worldly Christians. And we want to take a look at how each generally thinks about and behaves in the sexual area of life. This in some way should inform how you should approach each of these types of men—or not approach them, as the case may be.
THE WORLDLY NON-CHRISTIAN
On one occasion the apostle Paul was asked, “How would you describe young American males of the twenty-first century?” He responded, “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more” (Ephesians 4:19).
That’s not really true. I mean, it’s accurate; it’s just not true that this was the context for Ephesians 4:19. Nothing could be a better articulation of the mind of the unregenerate male (remember, this is a generalization, and, this is the unregenerate male) than this. Men lust and think incessantly about sex.
Really. Whatever you are picturing, it is worse. And it’s worse in several dimensions.
It’s worse in frequency, with sexual thoughts continuously parading across our minds like news updates on CNN. It’s walking past women on the way to class, women we’ve never seen before, and thinking about having sex with them. It’s sitting in class and thinking about the women in the classroom and what they look like undressed.
Heck, it’s thinking about the teacher if she’s under sixty. It’s being in the weight room and imagining the girl on the rowing machine in bed with us, and it’s conversations with other males about the same. This is the thought life of a man—a dirty vagabond collecting refuse in a shopping cart whose broken wheels are fixed in the direction of an endless circle.
For most men, this sort of thought life will culminate in some sort of sexual activity that day or later in the week, as they troll the pornographic Internet at night or indulge their imagination while lying in bed. Only to awaken in the morning and start the trash cycle again.
Men’s thoughts are also worse in deviancy, fed by the pornography, media, and messages of a sexually obsessed culture. When you go into Abercrombie & Fitch, it isn’t just a man and woman on the posters anymore, is it? It’s a group of teens in bed—Say “cheese,” kids. That poster is there only because of an audience that is not scandalized by the concept but comfortable with it and attracted to it.
On a recent news show a sting operation for pedophiles was staged. The camera recorded an older woman going online and slipping into chat rooms posing as a fourteen-year-old girl, one who was a virgin but open to having a sexual experience. Mind you, she made it abundantly clear she was fourteen. After a few hours of conversations with various individuals, she began giving out her address and making invitations, saying that her parents wouldn’t be home over the weekend.
After only a few hours online, do you know how many men responded to her invitation? One or two? Try eighteen men of assorted ages, sizes, and shapes driving to the home of this “fourteen-year-old girl” to have a sexual rendezvous. This is not deviant behavior. Deviant behavior is just that: behavior that deviates from the norm. But behavior such as I have described is increasingly becoming the norm.
Lust itself is a flame, and men fan it all day long, The flame, in rapid time, ceases to be satisfied with burning twigs and quickly moves on to harder and larger objects to feed its insatiable hunger—like an alcoholic, it progresses quickly from beer to Jack Daniels.
It is insatiable lust and minds bloated with sexual imagery that cause men’s sexual appetites to deviate in an attempt to quench an out-of-control fire. So when men fantasize about sex, they could be thinking about things that, if they were spoken, would seem patently offensive. I realize that women, too, have sexual fantasies that involve more than hand holding and a picnic lunch of brie and berries, but the point remains: men’s thoughts and fantasies on the whole are more debased.
Men’s thoughts about sex also tend to be more compulsive or addictive. As men cultivate lust, their disarrayed needs and desires all seem to focus on one thing: sex. And when they satisfy themselves and actually climax, it provides an enormous release.
But soon masturbation, sex, and pornography become the snake oil that cures a thousand ailments. Men become their own unscrupulous pharmacist dispensing sex, pornography, and masturbation to treat just about any negative emotion or experience. And when something becomes such an all-encompassing coping mechanism for dealing with life, you have ventured in the realm of addictive behavior. You don’t simply want sex; you need it.
If all that didn’t create a disturbing brew in the minds of worldly male unbelievers, you now need to sprinkle in a beaker full of technology: DVD players, the Internet, imaging cell phones, etc. Now man’s uncontrollable fire is introduced to a forest—Fire, meet Mr. Forest; Mr. Forest, Mr. Fire. Anything they want to see is now a button or a keystroke away.
With such a voracious hunger, few men can resist the temptation to fill their hollow eyes with candy, and so, as you walk along campus, the odds are good that the majority of men you see will have viewed pornography within the last forty-eight hours.
This thing—this mind of carnal man, this vile concoction—is now at toxic levels, chemically unstable, and set to blow. So let’s just add one more ingredient and see what happens: a belief that women are wired just like men are.
Through TV, pornography, reality dating shows, MTV, and women’s rooms littered with posters of half-dressed males, men begin to think that you think like they think. This, in turn, fuels all kinds of unrealistic sexual expectations and assumptions.
Bring all these forces together in the mind of a man drifting independently from God, and what you have is the perfect storm.
Are there exceptions? You bet, many of them. This is simply the broad brush of the non-Christian mind. But the Scripture’s distinction still remains: non-Christians approach all areas of life, particularly the sexual area, from a dramatically different perspective, and without Christ, most men will contour to the bentness of the culture.
BACHELOR NUMBER 2
But just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse ... it doesn’t. It actually gets better. There has always been a marked difference between a worldly unbeliever and a godly man. (And, ladies, if you find a godly man, he is indeed your friend and is worthy
of respect.) But with the torrent of sensuality in our culture, the gap has become larger and the differences more distinct between these two types of man.
Godly men do all within their powers not to meditate on sexual thoughts: they memorize Scripture, keep active, go to the gym, punch themselves in the groin—whatever keeps them out of harm’s way. When drawn to sexual images on TV or the computer, their impulse is to turn it off, pray, get out of the room, or take any other available escape route.
Godly men seek friendships with the opposite sex that are pure and God-honoring, trying to reorient their view of women in a way that is free of sexual distortions. They also seek accountability and encouragement from other men, sharing their struggles and employing various tactics to keep one another striving for moral purity. These men consistently take their desires, longings, and failures to God, seeking intimacy, empowerment, and forgiveness.
No doubt you have some Christian men in your church or fellowship who are immature and vulgar and who basically act like idiots. But take my word for it, if they really are following after Christ, they look at women and sex from a perspective that is radically different from that of the worldly unbeliever, no matter how nice the non-Christian may appear to be. (Remember, an elephant will dance on its hind legs like a ballerina if it thinks it’s going to get a peanut.)
Now, having looked at Christian men through a stained-glass window, it’s important to see a few stark realities.
Almost all godly men struggle with pornography. Men are lured through their eyes as you may be through touch or your emotions. Christian men, although they are declining to masturbate and are trying to abstain from sex until marriage, are bombarded by provocative images every day and have at their computer instant access to any image or video clip they could possibly conceive of (as well as many they could not). This, to put it mildly, is a challenge.
It should not come as a surprise, then, that most Christian men have to deal with some degree of failure, either in how far they went with their girlfriend, in what they clicked on while on their computer, or in what they thought about while lying in bed. What may surprise you is the degree of guilt they feel when they fall.
A bad choice on the computer can spiritually sideline men for days, and their time with God can be consumed with trying to experience the forgiveness that is, at least technically, freely theirs. Lust becomes the defining battle, benchmark, and bottleneck of their walk with Christ.
Because the pull of gravity is so great in the sexual area, you need to remember that no matter how godly the guy, you should not put him or yourself in a situation where you could stumble sexually. Committed Christian men are heroes, but they aren’t supermen, and even if they were, you are kryptonite.
BEHIND DOOR NUMBER 3
We move now to exhibit C, the worldly Christian: “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. ... You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1, 3). In every fellowship, short-term missions team, or youth group there are Christian men who have not made it their goal to seek sexual purity.
It could be because they are still young in Christ or because they have not fully submitted this area to the Spirit’s control. But whatever the reason, you have a rogue comet within your orderly Christian universe. There’s nothing more pathetic in the circus than when they dress the poor chimpanzee like a man or woman and have it ape (mimic) human behavior. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long to catch on to the trade language of the Christian world so that everybody—praise the Lord!— sounds as spiritual as everyone else, and the result is that it’s diffi cult to pick out the chimps.
Years ago, as a college student, I went to my first Christian conference. I wasn’t strongly connected to my campus ministry, so, along with a close friend, I took a bus with another Christian group halfway across the country to attend the conference. We had met some interesting people on the bus and made a few new Christian friends.
The first night of the conference, my friend and I got a knock at our hotel room door. It was two women we had met on the bus, nice Christian girls from such-and-such college who, after after entering our room, proceeded to get into our beds.
There’s a point to this story; I just can’t remember what it was. ... Oh, yes: you just never know. Don’t be naive. Just because someone has a fish on his car or is wearing a Jesus bracelet, that does not mean he is one of the tribe seeking moral purity. Men in this camp exist along a spectrum, ranging from those who have embraced some picture of sexual purity to those seeking to take advantage of naive Christian women.
Their mind, commitment, and thought life exist somewhere in the gray netherworld between the godly man and the worldly unbeliever. Buyer, beware: do not spend significant time with a man until you have a solid basis for assuming he is not in this camp. So, having stared into the flame, I want to show you a neat trick: how to pass your finger through the flame without sustaining any burns.
In my home is a wireless network where my airport base station sends out unseen signals to computers throughout the house. I have never seen the signals, but as I am concurrently on the Web, they must somehow be broadcasting. Likewise, how a woman dresses, talks, and acts sends out sexual messages whether she realizes it or not, and therefore it’s critical to contemplate what exactly you’re broadcasting, to avoid sending confusing signals.
I have two teenage daughters, so I thoroughly get the complexity of this issue: Where does stylish turn into sexy? Where does sexy turn into slutty? It’s even more complex than you may realize. Depending on the total “look” of a woman, something as simple as a pierced navel or a tattoo can be cute or it can send out sexual signals like you wouldn’t believe. Added to this cheesy mess is a thick crust of subjectivity: some things turn on some men but not others.
How do you navigate through this maze? Get in the habit of seeking a second opinion on what you’re wearing, such as from your dad, your brother, or a female friend (not a guy). My daughter was heading out to school with a cute but short skirt, a jean jacket, and shoes that had high heels.
She looked fine to my wife, but my wife asked, “What do you think?” I said, “Lose the heels.” In the male mind there is a microscopic line between a cute schoolgirl look and seductive-Britney-Spears-sex-toy-schoolgirl look.
When you are open to feedback, you avoid mistakes and grow in your own discernment. And, when in doubt, lean in the direction of dressing conservatively, or as Grandma would say, “If you’re not serving it for dinner, don’t put it on the menu.”
Flirting isn’t harmless either. There are more godly ways than fl irting to let men know you have relational interest. Flirtatious messages can send mixed signals of both relational and sexual interest that, in the mind of a man, can be tightly braided—like Britney’s hair when she’s dressed like a schoolgirl.
I honestly care that you have a need for masculine attention, but believe me when I say there is good attention and there is bad attention. They can feel the same to you, but they come from different places inside me. One is the godly man in me giving you a thumbs-up; the other is the depravedspring-break- gone-wild troll who also resides in me giving you a thumbs-up.
One of these men is worthy of your efforts, while the other is worthy of a jail sentence (ignore him). You can make me fumble my words by a glance or an innuendo, but it doesn’t mean I’m drawn to your mind or your soul. If, on the other hand, I’m drawn to your humility, zeal, modesty, faith, love, ideas, dreams, passion, or talents, then you really are a beautiful woman.
Words are the clothes worn by ideas and thoughts, and modesty applies to them, too. There is an old adage among unregenerate males: “If she smokes, she’s probably willing to have sex.”
The same connection can be made by men in regard to profanity: certain strange synapses in men are connected when they hear women talking like dockworkers. Avoid innuendos, sexual joking, and crassness. There’s a bent part of a man that equates verbal graphicness with sexual graphicness. Best not to connect those dots in his head.
CULTIVATE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
As much as it may wish to go mall hopping around the universe, the moon is stuck in the gravitational field of the earth. It cannot escape and is forever sentenced to being the lapdog of our planet. The only chance for liberation is if a planet the size of Jupiter moved into the neighborhood with a signifi cantly larger gravitational field.
So, what can we learn from physics? The only way not to live for men is to live for God. The only way to resist the desires for male attention and intimacy is to find intimacy in God. As the saying goes, “Nature abhors a vacuum,” and so does your heart; therefore, it will always seek to fill itself with something. If it’s not God, it will usually be men. In 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul addresses the issue of singleness. I’ve pulled out just a couple of the verses:
Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. (1 Corinthians 7:8)
I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:32)
Paul’s message on singleness is that it affords an opportunity to be singularly devoted to God.
One of the great tragedies of singleness is that it is wasted in a state of pining for couplehood. But the Scripture encourages you to see yourself as a couple right now: you and God. You have a unique opportunity to give your total attention, energy, and passion to God—something that is not possible when you are married with children.
Strangely enough, such commitment, strength, and independence are extremely attractive to men. While it is perhaps counterintuitive, the best way to attract godly men is to leave them for your marriage to God. Besides, He’s a much better partner and He doesn’t leave His clothes all over the floor.
STAY WITH THE FLOCK
There’s strength and safety in numbers. While my daughter is home in our house, our family forms a protective barrier of protection over her purity. The other line of protection is the believing community of Christians.
Pam was extremely involved with a fellowship I led some years ago. She met a guy. Let’s call him Bob because, well, his name really was Bob. She spent more and more time with him, and her connections with other women became threadbare. Before long, she began making a series of wrong choices, drifting out to sea further and further from the light of shore.
Getting involved sexually was a poor choice, but it was her second poor choice. The first was to allow herself to drift from community—from honest questions, sharing of struggles, confession, accountability, and other sources of relationship and intimacy.
There needs to be at least one other Christian woman in your life who knows what is going on with you in the dating and sexual areas. Women’s small groups that relationally go deep have proved to be the most critical component in living a life of purity. This is the closest thing to an antidote against male infections.
But I don’t want to traipse off the property laid out in this article: the mind of man. So what you need to realize is that men not only can sniff out those wandering outside the fold (I don’t know how, but they can) but also, even innocently, can lead you away from these life-sustaining relationships. Oooo, baby, it’s a wild world, and it’s tough to get by just upon a smile, girl ...
I’M A LOSER, BABY, WHY WON’T YOU DATE ME?
Not a “loser” in the classic sense of the word, but in this context, the term “loser” means any guy who is not fully devoted to walking with Christ. If he is without a passion for Christ and sexual purity, your odds of losing and getting burned in the relationship are off the charts.
I’d love to tell you that temptation in this area will come in the form of a 4’10” obnoxious pervert, but it may well be a 6’2” European songwriter/poet/model who has long hair and an unshaven face and who cries over animal cruelty. You must remember that the orientation of the non-Christian mind is still radically different from that of the Christian. Don’t date this man. Buy his albums and collected works of poetry, but do not date him. Only date a married man—one who has said “I do” to Christ and lives for Him alone.
DON’T BANK ON MY SELF-CONTROL
There is a medical term called “learned helplessness,” and it refers to just what it says. In certain situations learned helplessness can be a defense mechanism, a posture of passivity that allows you to do certain things or not do certain things while avoiding the guilt or responsibility of the failure.
This is an issue that relates to relationships withbachelor number two, the godly man. No matter how godly the man, he is not beyond making impaired sexual choices. His failure does not justify yours if you go too far in the physical area of your relationship.
But isn’t he supposed to give spiritual leadership? You both are responsible for spiritual leadership. The role of spiritual leader relates to marriage, not dating, and so that responsibility does not belong to the man in your life until there’s a ring on your finger. Until then, entrusting spiritual leadership to him in the sexual area is like giving a wolf guard duty at the chicken coop—a praying, Spirit-led wolf perhaps, but a wolf nonetheless.
You need to share ownership and enforcement of boundaries. You both are guarding the chicken coop, and it will take watchfulness on both your parts to ensure that it doesn’t get broken into. (I’m a little confused myself by my chicken coop metaphor, but let’s assume it stands for something like sexual purity.)
Don’t take a boyfriend or husband’s struggle with pornography as a personal failure on your part.
Pornography is many things, but personal isn’t one of them. You could be gorgeous and meet every whim of his beating heart, and he would still find sexual imagery alluring.
Maybe this analogy will help. Right now I could be deeply in love with you, having a wonderful time of conversation, while at the same time begin to eat a delicious cheeseburger. The appeal of that cheeseburger is to a different part of my mind and body and it in no way negates how I feel about you or any lack on your part. Pornography is that cheeseburger.
Certainly, when pornography becomes an addiction, on many fronts it will hinder relationships and intimacy, and it can lead to unfaithfulness. But for most men, pornography functions on a visceral level like a juicy cheeseburger (I’m beginning to think I have a problem with cheeseburgers), and men instantly go into a trance like Homer Simpson — Mmm, donuts. While it is sin, and a damaging one, having looked at pornography does not mean your male friend is a sexual deviant or in any way mean that you are inadequate.
My reasoning, in giving clarity to this issue, is not to downplay the harm of pornography. Rather, it is to free you from the sense of responsibility you may feel for a male friend’s involvement. The old Puritan adage was “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”; for women, it’s guilt, low self-esteem, and a sense of inadequacy that most easily lead to moral compromise. When it comes to pornography, have compassion on the men’s struggle and pray for them, but assume no responsibility for their involvement.
There is so much more I could tell you, but I sense I have given away one too many party secrets. To talk anymore could upset the delicate balance of power between the sexes and have far-reaching and cataclysmic results—floods, tidal waves, etc.
I hope these words will inspire you to purity. And purity’s great value is that it brings honor to Jesus, who purchased us out of sin. Oh, to be that spotless bride.
Chapter excerpt taken from “Fantasy” (CruPress).
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