As a 28-year-old, Christian, single guy, I've heard this message preached countless number of times: I need to honor the girls in my life and treat them with respect. I need to view them as sisters in Christ. Great message. What I was hoping this article would tackle is the question, "How does a single man deal with the lack of physical intimacy?" Although I am very secure in myself and thoroughly enjoy the stage of life I am in, physical intimacy is one of the areas that seems ... how can I put it ... non-existent. However, the "male urges" are still existent. How are single, Christian guys supposed to handle this issue in a Christ-like manner? I think the majority of us already know how we are supposed to treat women. On top of that it's our strong desire to give them the respect that they deserve. So instead of us just hearing what we are not supposed to do, it would be nice to hear how we can fill that seeming void that exists when we do the right thing.
I think this unfortunately dives into the problem with porn in the Christian church today. Although I am not trying to condone it in any way, I'm sure that many times pornography turns into the coping mechanism for the lack of physical intimacy in Christian, single men. I already know and could teach the lesson about the harms of porn, so that's not the issue. It's a battle in which I already know right from wrong. Sometimes that battle is lost. And I know for myself, one of the justifications that runs through my mind is that this is one way to achieve the facade of physical intimacy without hurting the "sisters in Christ" immediately surrounding me. This in no way really justifies the act, and guilt always follows. I may be the only one that thinks that, but I guess I'm hoping that I'm not.
If this issue was tackled by a brave soul, it would be nice to hear it coming from a positive standpoint of godly ways to fulfill that desire as opposed to an article coming down on the graveness of pornography and uncontrolled flirting.
We've received numerous variations on this same question, and I have much to say about it — too much for one response — but let's at least get started. I could give you the standard "flee temptation/be pure" answer and leave it at that, but it wouldn't do you much good. Don't get me wrong, the Bible is chock full of "flee temptation/be pure" instruction, but that really doesn't get to heart of it. We're going for a holistic approach.
I want to acknowledge John Eldredge for helping me organize my thinking on this issue in his book Wild at Heart. I encourage you to read it — once now and again when you turn 40. You'll get a different message a decade or two from now.
What is this illusive male "urge"? It is not — I repeat — not merely the sexual impulse or desire for orgasm. The male urge goes much, much deeper than sexual release. A man needs — "urges" for — three primary things: a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue and an adventure to live. Eldredge points out that all three desires are placed in a man's heart by God himself, dating back to Adam. It's a theme that recurs over and over in mythology and romantic stories. The knight in shining armor fights valiantly for the noble cause of the kingdom, defeats the enemy and rescues the damsel in distress. From Cinderella to Braveheart, the theme is the same — a beauty, a battle, an adventure.
We men desire to be that hero. We desire to live that adventure, to fight that fight and unveil the beauty of a woman. We think, But I'm not on the streets of Baghdad fighting terrorists; there are no more knights or gladiators. I'm just a regular ol' guy in the modern world, earning a degree or working my job. There are no more battles to fight, no adventures to live, no beauties to rescue. So we retreat to the illicit and are distracted for a few moments from our boredom.
Second Samuel 11-12 is a snapshot of exactly what I'm talking about, the infamous Bathsheba Incident. David, the once great-warrior, has quit fighting, even while a battle raged around him. While the other men fought valiantly, he lounged back home on his couch watching Bathsheba, someone else's wife, take a bath (porn) and then used her. In contrast, her warrior-husband Uriah wouldn't even think of sleeping in his own house with his own wife while a battle raged. His heart called him into battle. The beauty would have to wait.
Satan's Big Lie to you, to every man, is that there is no battle, or at least not one worthy of your participation. Here, he says when he offers the illicit, here's a little something to keep you busy in the meantime, while you wait for something to happen. But Scripture disagrees, "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary [tell me, if there's no battle, why do you have an adversary?] the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour [nope, no battles here ...]. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world" (1 Peter 5:8-9, ESV).
Let me ask you, if a real lion were about to literally eat your heart, would you be thumbing through a Victoria's Secret catalog? No. You'd be fighting for your life. Most of us live like life is a trip to the mall, but as Eldredge says, in reality it's more like the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan (Normandy Beach, D-Day, WWII).
Your adversary, the devil, is not merely trying to get you to be sexually illicit, whether through sex or masturbation. The enemy is trying to destroy your masculine strength, hoping to distract you from battle against him, thus making you ineffective.
He might offer counterfeit battles (a lifetime dedicated to the accumulation of things), counterfeit adventures (Jackass: The Movie activities) and/or a counterfeit beauty (the detached women of porn and advertising). But those aren't really the problems. Your urges are not the problems. Your heart's deepest longings are God-given, but for them to be fulfilled, you must get out on the front lines in the battle for your heart.
Here's my advice: The next time you're tempted to satisfy your urges illicitly (and married men, by the way, have the same temptations and urges), let me give you a new image. Picture yourself in full military gear, strapped head to toe with weapons. It's scorching hot. You're on the wall of the castle, the center of the kingdom and inside that castle is its most valuable possession: your heart as God desires it to be. The sweat and blood are dripping from your face. Your hands are gripping a fully automatic 50 caliber machine gun. Your job is to stop any enemy force that dare attack — no, devour — your heart. Now, pull the trigger.
I wish I could grab every young man by the shoulders and say, The battle! The battle! The battle! The battle is raging, but it's not a battle merely against porn or any other illicit behavior. The battle raging is for your heart. Even as a Christian, your old nature acts as an insurgency. You must fight that battle every day. Your weapons are spiritual disciplines (Ephesians 6:10-20), especially prayer and reading God's Word.
I want to issue a challenge to you. I want to call you into the battle, to fight like you've never fought before. If I told you that there is someone who right now is stalking you, watching your every move, with the intent of stealing from you, killing you, destroying you, literally devouring your masculinity, would you view life differently? Of course you would. You'd be on high alert every minute — a Special Ops soldier on night patrol down the streets of Baghdad — finger on the trigger, watching for flashes of light, ready to fire.
What I just described is not hypothetical. It is your reality. Your enemy the devil is at war with you, and according to 1 Peter 5:8, is prowling around you, seeking to devour you. Every day you wake up, your enemy has your heart in his sights. What better way to keep you ineffective than by offering you counterfeits for the desires God has placed in your heart? Rather than embracing the adventure of a vibrant, Christian life, you chase the short-lived adrenaline rush. Rather than pursuing the beauty of your life — your wife or wife-to-be — you retreat to the detached women of porn and advertising. Rather than engaging the battle for your heart and the hearts of others, you settle for fighting for material gain or prestige. As a result, you are partially satisfied, fairly bored and completely distracted from war.
Every day you wake up, you wake up in an arena. You're Maximus. And when you open your eyes, the enemy starts swinging, because he knows that if you really engage, you are dangerous. You've got to get your hands on some armor and some weapons, and fast. Ephesians 6:10-18 tells you what those are.
That passage assures you that you are not fighting porn, per se, or anything else you can see with your flesh and blood eyes. You are fighting the unseen powers of darkness — Satan and his demons and their schemes against you — therefore your weapons are spiritual. I know this can be very, very unfamiliar territory for you, but it is absolutely essential that you go there. It feels like wilderness, but that's OK. You can train yourself.
The passage describes your armor and your weapons. There is an extensive list, but I'm going to challenge you on just two weapons that leap out of the passage: prayer and God's Word. Those are the nuclear bombs in your arsenal. You must get serious about these two disciplines of the Christian life. Any Christian I know who has any depth has these two things in common: They pray, and they study the Bible with disciplined regularity.
Here's my advice in the form of a challenge: Every day for the next seven days, set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than usual, and start the next seven days with 15 minutes of prayer and reading God's Word. Start by reading a Psalm and a chapter of Proverbs (choose the chapter that corresponds with the day of the month if you wish) and then finish the time by praying (if you need some guidance on prayer, consider using ACTS, an acronym for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication). After seven days is up, set your alarm for 15 more minutes earlier, and start the next seven days with 30 minutes of reading and prayer. Continue this cycle and in about a month you'll be starting your day with an hour of prayer and reading. You'll soon discover that even an hour isn't enough. Here's my story about the first time I tried to start the day with prayer.
I commend you for addressing the issue of physical intimacy as a single person and wanting to respect and honor the young women in your life. You showed a lot of courage in writing us. Rest assured, though, that being single is not the reason this is an issue. The struggles and temptations continue after marriage, because the battle for your heart continues. Go to battle on behalf of your masculine wiring. Fight for your heart every day. Be active in the pursuit of the beauty — the wife — God has for you. Live the adventure of a life committed to Christ. Focus on these things, and the rest will fall into place.
P.S. Anyone willing to take the challenge? Let us know.
Copyright 2010 John Thomas. All rights reserved.