Auld Lang Sin

It’s a new year, a time for resolutions, for new beginnings, for big changes. I mean, you’re 40, for heaven’s sake. Time to cut off your hand.

Of course, you’ve said that before; more times than you can remember. Sometimes you said it by rote, because it was what needed to be said to whomever was standing in front of you (or across a desk from you) at the time. It was one of your tools, one of your lies. And you were good at lying, that can’t be denied. Hiding evidence, feigning shock, changing subjects, faking attention, staring blankly, pretending to feel pain: those were skills, learned over the years and honed to near perfection.

Not total perfection, though, because if you were perfect at them, then you would have been able to continually and easily lie to yourself, and it would have become second nature, and you wouldn’t have ever slipped up. But, thank God, you never did get that expert at lying to yourself, and so the truth would slip out, and you’d have to admit your sin, your addiction, your rationalization, your habit, to yourself–or to someone else. And so that led to those select times when you talked about cutting off your hand (generally metaphorically, of course, but a couple of desperate times, almost-if-not-quite literally) and really meant it; nothing rote about the words then. Saying those things (to yourself, or worse, to others) really hurt, and you’d do just about anything to avoid getting to that point, but it was also almost always a hopeful and gladdening experience when you did, when that desire to end things, to remake things, to resolve things, welled up in you firm and clear. Because then you’d felt like you were finally going to try to live up to what you publicly professed to believe, to what you’d built your relationships and your own self-understanding upon. You felt good.

And things were good, or they often were, anyway. It’s not like your hand kept getting in the way of, kept distracting, kept poisoning, everything. Truth is, you sometimes put it in your pocket or put it behind your back and forgot it was there for…well, for weeks. Months. Even years. There were even those times (not that many, perhaps, but more than you really want to confess, just the same) that you took your hand out just to try it out, to have some fun, with every intention of putting it right back again, and that’s exactly what you did. You always–or, at least, for as long as you can remember–knew that the old saw about being able to stop anytime you want was false, but sometimes it seemed true, and that seeming was enough to give one part of you sufficient justification to keep on with the way things were. After all, it’s not like the fun–the thrill, the risk, the pleasure, the reward–wasn’t real. It wasn’t a false feeling; Satan’s not that bad at his job. And who doesn’t like being able to make use of their skills? Over the years you’d successfully mastered schedules, erased entries, moved money, cracked codes, treaded silently, changed stories, practiced excuses; talent like that is there to be used, right? Well, that’s what you told yourself–always with a bit of honest self-deprecation, thank goodness, but you did think it nonetheless.

So why is this time any different? Because the stakes have been raised, of course. And that was another thing you had always told yourself–that if the stakes were high enough, you’d go through with it, you’d cut off the hand. It’d be an offering to the Lord, and you really meant those words: you meant every Old Testament word of that language, even though such language doesn’t really fit with what you believe, or think you believe, any more. But meaning it and doing it are two different things, you know? Over the years the stakes for you and your family have been raised multiple times, and the blessings you’ve experienced as you all made your way through those times of trial and doubt were real, and indicative where you needed to go and what was expected of you as well, and through it all you compartmentalized, you focused on something other than your secret, your sin. Well, except when you wondered if you weren’t being punished for keeping it around, even if it wasn’t a problem (though sometimes it was), even if it was under control (though sometimes it wasn’t), even if it was one of those times when you’d almost forgotten it was there (of course you never really did). It’s the same thing with your mission; as honest and as authentic your own struggles to assess and come to peace with your mission may have been, there was always the possibility that maybe they were–that maybe it was–compromised from the start, however much you managed your own thinking at the time, and your recollections since. But the point is, all through that, all through the trials and resolutions, all through the raising and lowering of stakes, you always managed to avoid the worst: you were never truly a prisoner of your struggles, and you were never fully convicted either. It remained something that you always believed you had time to do something about.

And now, well, you know that’s not true, don’t you? It was a shock to realize that you ever actually believed it, or allowed some part of you to tell yourself that you believed it, when you received the phone call, when you came home, when there was the note on your door, and it all exploded, and you figured you’d finally done it, finally lost it all. Perhaps the ways you’ve been blessed without having fully repented, without having really been honest to those who care for you most, without having finally set things straight, made it easier to pull that long-running delusion off. But then that delusion collapsed, along with everything else. The stakes were as high as they’d ever been, and the fall from their heights hurt worse than anything you’ve ever experienced. You were scared; no, you were terrified, you were inconsolable, you were paralyzed and devastated. And now you’re here.

Twice before in your life your contradictory impulses–your affection for your affliction on the one hand, your consternation over it on the other–had put you into a crisis, had demanded a confession, had called upon all those old despairing feelings about cutting off your hand. But perhaps the third time really is the charm. Because this time you’re not lying to the good man sitting across the desk from you (and he is a good man, even if he is younger than you and you can catalogue all sorts of reasons not to listen to how he interprets the scriptures open between you). This time you’re still going to the meetings, you’re following the 12 steps, over and over again. This time you’re writing blog posts about what’s actually on your mind. This time you’re staying in touch with and being honest with those friends who have gone through many of the same things, and some worse ones; you’re partaking of their sense of humor and balance and forgiveness and perspective, all of which you’ve sorely lacked (a lack that has affected those who love and care for you, as they warped themselves without realizing it so as to relate to a person who always kept something hidden, one hand tucked safely away, or who if they knew about the hand had been fooled by you into never talking about it). This time it’s working. You’re repenting; you’re changing. About time, you grown-up, you responsible adult, you father, you happily married man. About damn time.

You already miss it, a little bit. You know you always will (addicts don’t get cured; they just stop indulging). Even if the insistent impulse is overcome through a change of heart, even if your occasional, almost instinctive pulling out of your hand goes away for so long you don’t even remember what it feels like to use it or what you enjoyed about it in the first place, you’ll never forget the desire, the rush, the craving: that’s locked into yourself too deep. It’s your old acquaintance, one that will always come to mind. You and your sin have covered too much distance together, going back to days much too long ago, to expect any mortal repentance to make it truly disappear. Someday, you hope (a hope that goes back to when you first discovered C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, the work of apologetics you’ve read more often than any other), it’ll be burned away, transformed by an angel into something not fallen, something holy and whole and divine. Until then, it’s your burden, your consequence, your reminder. You’ll always be able to look down at where the hand used to be, and know it may reappear to take your other hand in its own at anytime. And that’s all right. There are worse fates than to have this sort of acquaintance. Everyone has their thorn; this might as well be yours.

Comments

  1. Every once in a while you read something that feels like it came from yourself somehow. This is one of those times for me. Thank you for this.

  2. Wow, that’s good stuff.

  3. Thank you for this, Russell. It is perhaps the purest post I have ever read.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    As I reflect on the repentance literature in the Church, I can’t recall a piece that approaches the power of this one–a power that derives from its soul-baring honesty. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  5. Steve Evans says:

    I don’t know the last time I’ve read something this powerful. Thanks Russell.

  6. That is very intense. If anyone is skimming the comments wondering whether to read a longer-than-usual post, the answer is: yes. Don’t skip this one.

  7. Good luck RAF.

  8. I skimmed the article. From what I could tell it was very well written. I’m not sure I know what it was about, though. Something about dismemberment. Something about addiction. Possibly something else about masturbation, but that might have been wholly the child of my filthy, yet fertile mind.

    Yes, I’m sorely in need of more than a few practical New Year’s resolutions. I recognize this. But I don’t want to live in a world where people can’t skim long, verbose (but well-written!) blog posts at their discretion.

  9. This post was obviously written from the heart and while people may make light of it, they are doing themselves a disservice by reacting that way.

    RAF – thank you.

  10. Russell, echoing what others have said, this is a powerful post, and brave. I appreciate it greatly.

  11. Words fail.

  12. Russel, good luck. I will pray for you in this thing. Thank God for all those who have prayed for me in my own sins.

  13. Good luck, RAF. Good luck to all of us…

  14. Thanks for this post, Russell. And God bless you, dealing with whatever demons afflict you.

  15. To my needlessly snarky comment above I should add that this post is very interesting and eloquent, though not particularly easy to understand. My impression of the post was different from most people, apparently. I took it as metaphoric, of universal to all of us, as sinners, no matter the size or type of the sin. I didn’t read this post as necessarily being one of personal confession, except to articulate feelings that everyone shares.

  16. Clay Whipkey says:

    Taking it at face value as honest and somewhat confessional… this post is simultaneously uncomfortable and profoundly spiritual. Nice work.

  17. Your honesty has moved me to tears. God bless you in your journey.

  18. Teancum knew how to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

    And now, it came to pass in the twenty and sixth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, behold, when the Lamanites awoke on the first morning of the first month, behold, they found Amalickiah was dead in his own tent; and they also saw that Teancum was ready to give them battle on that day. (Alma 52:1)

  19. J. Hill, Norbert, Ray, Kevin, Steve, Researcher, Ronan, Nora, J., Ann, Matt, Cynthia, Kaimi, Clay, thanks much for your kind thoughts and words of support.

    BTD, the post isn’t supposed to be easy to understand. It’s obviously about my own struggles and reprentance, but it is also metaphorical, covering many more possibilities than any one case of confession could ever involve (or at least so one would hope). I chose to write the post in a somewhat experimental way, because I wanted to write something honest, but there was a limit in how useful simple honesty would be, to myself or to anyone else. (Not to mention what level of honesty my wife would have been comfortable with.) Hence, the tone of the post. I’m happy that some readers have found it thoughtful and helpful, despite its difficulties; it was difficult for me to write, but very cathartic all the same.

  20. Jami, Danithew, thanks to you two as well.

  21. Russell: This is powerful. I can’t remember having read a confessional so replete with self-knowledge, so fresh and so raw. God bless you.

  22. Russell,

    My apologies if it seemed I was making light of your personal struggles.

  23. I have spent the last three years on the other side of that desk, listening and sometimes crying with people who struggle with these issues, but who lack the eloquence to express themselves as you have. You speak for all of us when we truly confront ourselves. When we do so, it is important to remember that our weaknesses and our sins do not define us. All that is good about you is still good and it is still there. The love, wisdom and strength of character that allowed you to write this is not diminished by your failings.

  24. Thanks. I attended the temple this morning and left feeling spiritually unsatisfied and consequently frustrated. Your post, in an unexpected way, changed all of that. Thank you.

  25. Well written Russell. Is this a welcome to BCC, goodbye to T&S entry as well?

  26. Thomas Parkin says:

    This is really remarkable, RAF. There is a universality to it. We recognize ourselves in your dilemmas – if, anyway, we have very much honesty to us, at all.

    I think of two things:

    First, there is a list of things in Sec 121 of things that drive off the Holy Spirit. That list includes “covering (our) sins.” Several years ago I realized that I had spent my whole life involved in a cover-up. That realization didn’t end the cover-up. In fact, I’ve found that my ego’s capacity to devise new ways to cover-up seems limitless; and can, paradoxically, include ‘confession.’ We can’t cover up with the Lord, of course. He simply says “Adam, where art thou?” And up we pop. He sees to the bottom of our hearts, and we, for all our professed sincerity, do not. I have become convinced that this cover-up is one of the central reasons, maybe the central reason, we _do not have more of the Spirit in our lives._

    Second, there are a couple quotes from E.M Forster’s great novel Room With a View that often come to mind.

    “The armour of falsehood is subtly wrought out of darkness, and hides a man not only from others, but from his own soul.”

    “It did not do to think, nor for that matter to feel … she gave up trying to understand herself and joined the vast armies of the benighted. The armies are full of pleasant, pious folk. But they have yielded to the only enemy that matters – the enemy within. They have sinned against … truth, and vain will be their strife after virtue …”

    Best to you! ~

  27. Velikiye Kniaz says:

    How great your spirit must be, Russell, to be so sorely tried. Evidently, the adversary believes that if he conquers you the Kingdom will suffer a significant loss. As Churchill said, “Never give up! Never! Never! NEVER! We are all called to endure to the end and the word ‘endure’ indicates that it isn’t going to be easy, especially in these the very last of the last days. As long as your conscience stays sharp and you don’t succumb to self deceit, The Lord will be with and you will come off the conqueror. Persevere! May God always bless, protect, and watch over you!

  28. Thanks for this. Seriously.

  29. This post blew me away, Russell. Great writing emerging from a lot of soul-searching hard work. Bravo. And good luck as you keep working out the details. We’re rooting for you.

  30. Honesty is sometimes so hard; most often hardest with oneself.

    Great post.

    Thank you.

  31. Russell, your post made me uncomfortable–as I assumed it was supposed to. Thank you for that discomfort.

  32. BTD, not to worry, you don’t have anything to apologize for. I didn’t take that impression from your comments at all. The post by design is kind of a weird mixture of openness and opacity; it doesn’t surprise me that it strikes different people differently.

    Grant, Gary, Christopher, Kari, Thomas, Velikiye, Ben, my thanks for your compliments and thoughts (and especially for the fine quotes, Thomas; they’re much appreciated!).

    Mary Ellen, that is high praise, and it means a great deal to me coming from you. Thanks very much, old friend.

  33. Wish I could edit these comments; they always take me too long to write. Thanks Aileen. And Jim, you’re welcome. Heaven knows you’ve discomforted me–in good and necessary ways–more than a few times in the past; I’m happy if something I’ve written has returned the favor.

  34. Russell, that hurt. A lot. But in a good and needful way.

    Thank you so much.

  35. Latter-day Guy says:

    Lord love you, RAF, some of that really hurt. Thanks. Those shafts went home. God bless you with your thorns.

  36. That was seriously good. Any comment I made would be dumb. Like this one.

    Really, seriously good. And my five-year-old is pulling on my power cord, so even if I had a good comment, I’d have to abandon it.

  37. Splendid……may God bless you and yours.

  38. I put everything on the altar–my heart, my hands–and nothing came of it except depression. I don’t really care anymore about my moral deficiencies–and maybe that’s because they’re not really so terrible as I used to think, or maybe because I’m better than I used to be–I don’t know. The only thing I know is that despite my infirmities there are people in this world that I love more than my life–that, and there are terrible things in this world that I wish I could wish away. And so, I say, come Lord Jesus. I don’t care if I’m not ready to receive you. Come and bring peace that my loved ones may be comforted and that the innocent may be delivered from the brutal evils of this world.

  39. Wow, thank you. I really like your list of life-lessons as well.

  40. Russell, I’m not sure I understand this post but if I do understand it I want to offer my support. Since meeting you at lunch last year I have often thought of you and Melissa and my impression of you. You seem to be a person with great gifts, and I have often observed that great gifts come with great challenges. I had a wonderful friend who I lost because he could not meet the challenges that came with his considerable gifts. I am confident that will not be the case with you. I wish you and Melissa the very best in whatever struggles you may be experiencing and will keep you in my prayers. Thanks for this post.

  41. Kathryn, LDG, Rebecca, Bruce, Kori, MCQ, thank you for your kind words and wishes.

    Jack, it may be that putting our sins and problems and fallen condition on the altar, as it were, really doesn’t solve anything; that the effort will just leave us depressed and feeling lost. I can’t say I know if you’re right or wrong, because the past several months have taught me–as has thinking through and writing this post–that few of us ever truly do so; most of us, most of the time, are still holding something back, not really putting it all on the altar, not really cutting off the hand. And perhaps that’s a fault of our human nature, the fact that we will always be trapped within our perspective, our subjective self-understanding: maybe we can’t know if we’re actually putting it all on the altar or not. All I can is that, for now, I’m trying. We’ll see where it leads. Thanks for your thoughts all the same.

  42. I can’t say I know if you’re right or wrong, because the past several months have taught me–as has thinking through and writing this post–that few of us ever truly do so; most of us, most of the time, are still holding something back, not really putting it all on the altar, not really cutting off the hand. And perhaps that’s a fault of our human nature, the fact that we will always be trapped within our perspective, our subjective self-understanding: maybe we can’t know if we’re actually putting it all on the altar or not. All I can is that, for now, I’m trying.

    This post just keeps getting better. You just defined the need for grace, mercy and the glory of the Atonement more concisely than I’ve ever seen.

    Again, thank you.

  43. Mark Bigelow says:

    Russell,

    I’ve missed reading your posts. You are a wonderful writer and thinker. My thoughts and prayers are with you in your struggle, and your stuggle makes me reflect on my own struggles. Bless you.

  44. Russell: “…maybe we can’t know if we’re actually putting it all on the altar or not.”

    Thanks for your response. I’ve been getting the same sense over the last while–that we really don’t know how to put it all on the altar. In my case, I really did strive to turn over every possible stone I could imagine–and it just didn’t work. But on the other hand, I have gone through some experiences that proved me to the core on *specific* issues–experiences that I did not chose for myself. And it was through those that I really learned something about myself–in terms of what I was really willing to sacrifice.

    I think, perhaps, one of the keys to making acceptable offerings is to not lose our heads and become overzealous about what we think God might require. But let Him through his own subtle machinations channel us into experiences that are appropriate to the particular “push” we need to make in specific areas of our lives.

  45. I probably should have put a wink after “machinations.”

  46. And you live to hate this old man that lives within you. The one who is married to sin and destruction the ruler of this world. This evil man who plays patty wack with me and whom I continuously reward the dog with a bone. Oh how I hate this old man and all of his works. A killer, a destroyer, and the son of Satan. The one who takes credit even when I do your work Lord. You gave me strength in this life to overcome him Lord Jesus, but buried him I have not. Oh, Jesus, when shall you redeem us forevermore! I hate this world and everything touched by him.

  47. Wow! How true this is. Thank you for being so honest. My mother is an addict….

  48. And this is the genius of material creation, that we experience lives that try us most sorely, and bring us to true growth, through the grace of God. My prayers are with you and your family and students. May you find strength, healing, and oneness.

  49. Ray, Mark, Jack, Brian, Sunshine, Tatiana, thanks for your thoughts and good words.

  50. While reading this, I felt all kinds of emotions — anger, vindication, sorrow, hurt, contrition, love maybe even.

    See, like the good co-dependent I am, I read this thinking of My Favorite Addict. After every sentence thinking, “Does he feel this way?” “Is this something he’ll respond too?” And I did recognize him in your words. This reminds me that there is still so much work for me to do as a co-dependent — to break my own chains that bind me down, that keep me from being the person I want to be. I focus too much on his struggle and I don’t focus enough on my own issues/problems/hang-ups/sins — I’m too busy cataloging/covering up for/taking the blame for/internalizing/shielding/blaming/hiding/down-playing his.

  51. RAF – Compelling and beautiful. I wish we as a community would share this kind of self-reflective honesty more often.

    I’ve recently indulged in a guilty pleasure and watched the first couple of seasons of Dexter. The title character wrestles with an addiction he calls his “Dark Passenger”. I’ve been enthralled by his ongoing monologue debating the morality of his decisions, examining the value of the guiding principles that serve as his received wisdom, acknowledging the contradictions inherent in the way he decides to live.

    I hope you don’t mind being compared to Dexter. I mean it as a very high compliment. It’s hard to discuss these ideas, but I’m strengthened because you’ve made such a strong effort.

    Thank you.

  52. Ow. As has been said above, hard to read, and very good. I’m wishing you all the best.

  53. Russell–Thank you and God bless. Only recognition of how vexing and persistent our wrong yearnings can be lets us know fully the power of the eventual promise of the atonement, the “mighty change of heart.”

  54. Tyler, Janeannechovy, Keith, thanks much for your comments.

    Mary AA–wow, talk about honesty! I’m grateful you felt strong enough to share your thoughts with us. I knew this post might well touch on some pretty raw feelings, but I hadn’t imagine a response like yours. Thank you for it.

    The New Testament emphasizes the idea of losing yourself, of serving God and feeling His love through forgetting oneself and serving one’s fellow man. In my experience (which I have had too much of, unfortunately) this scriptural call is one that struggling addicts can (sometimes knowingly, sometimes not) abuse, as can their co-dependents; both can end up embracing the idea that the sins or needs or deficiencies in question must be constantly attended to, that everyone else has an obligation to put life on hold and make exceptions for the person in need of help. Of course, all us addicts–all us sinners, which includes every person reading this comment, not to mention every person on this planet–do need help. But a “help” which makes someone feel that their first obligation is to put their own relationship with the Savior on hold, and spend their time “cataloging/covering up for/taking the blame for/internalizing/shielding/blaming/hiding/down-playing” (great list, by the way!)…well, that’s not truly losing yourself in the service of another person; that’s having allowed another person to so completely define and inhabit you that his selfish (whether he realizes it or not) interests become your selfish interests. At its extreme, co-dependency becomes a perverse and sad sort of self-love (“I need him to love himself so I can love myself again!”). Obviously, that isn’t at all what the Lord wants for us–for any of us.

    Sorry to have gone on at length; this is just something that I have strong feelings about, having been, perhaps, a perpetrator of it myself. God bless you, Mary AA, in whatever decisions you’re inspired to make. You’ll be in my prayers.

  55. Russell,

    This resonates with so many of us for good reason. I can’t tell you how many golden phrases are here; it’s obvious that the same spirit that’s spoken to my heart has been speaking to yours.

    I remember a very spiritual man who I greatly admired declaring “Why, when I know what I know, do I do the things that I do?” It floored me because I thought I was the only one who felt compartmentalized in his church membership — born again of the spirit on the one hand, and still watching Satan play me like a fiddle on occasion. I’m going to read this yet again and pull out some of my favorite phrases.

    When it talks about the Nephites preaching nothing but faith and repentance and the confessing of sins, it’s for reasons like these that you describe. We all need to realize that others are going through the same drama that we are and that this is the essence of Christian struggle, or at least that of the true Christian. We all need to know we’re not alone. I think you’ve hit the perfect tone here — the actual sins are none of our business, but the openness with the struggle benefits all of us.

    And you’re right — when it comes down to it, “cutting off your hand” and “taking on one’s cross” are not extreme metaphors. It really comes down to voluntary and complete surrender to the Lord, and unfortunately it can take a lifetime figuring out how to do that.

  56. Very thought-provoking. I like it.

  57. Russell,

    I think too many of us confuse self-annihilation with self-sacrifice–especially those who are dealing with an inordinate amount of shame. We need to remember that God’s purpose isn’t to snuff out of existence the very beings that he loves so dearly–to change us into something that would make us not our selves anymore. Imagine crossing into the next world only to find that your loved ones have been fundamentally changed into something different than they were before–different than the people who you learned to love with your whole soul. I can’t imagine a worse hell than that. For that reason, I find great hope in the doctrines revealed through Joseph Smith–how they temper those Biblical doctrines that we otherwise would mystify into meaningless metaphysical concepts.

  58. I don’t know who you are. I happened on to this post last night. Since reading it I have had no peace. I have a knot in my stomach and a tightness in my throat. I am a middle-aged mormon woman who has a “problem”, too. I’ll admit, under anonymity, what it is: masturbation. Your analogy fits me so completely that it has left me in a mess. I live a huge lie, being a reccomend-holding, active member who fulfills many church callings faithfully and even works for the church. (A person is supposed to be reccomend worthy to be able to be employed by the church, in case you didn’t know.) I’ve been married for over 25 years and have six children.
    Marriage has been a great disappointment to me. I feel cheated by God and all the other people who convinced me that happiness=marrying a returned missionary in the temple. My husband has not had sex with me in over ten years, and before that it was less than once a month. I feel betrayed. I saved myself for this! WHY? I of course use all this to justify my coping strategies. At least I didn’t go out and have an affair, right? I would never consider divorce, so this is better than that, right? Perhaps my husband will die young. Then I’ll have a second chance at sexual satisfaction. It’s ridiculous. I am pathetic. I feel like a slut, a trashy gross person. I’m so immature and stupid. The thought of never orgasming again, never having sexual pleasure again, makes me feel desperate and anxious. For years and years and wouldn’t even form the word masturbate in my head. I compartmentalized so completely. It wasn’t until I started a twelve step program for my eating disorder that I admitted to myself that I had a problem with self-stimulation (as I used to refer to it in my own mind). I finally admitted it to God, and for the first time I said the words out loud to another human being (step five). That was one the hardest things I’ve done. I managed to find recovery from both problems for about three years. But, of course, I stopped going to meetings and slowly my recovery has dwindled and I relasped and have “binged” once a month or so for the past few
    years. I never did sit across the desk from my bishop and tell him about my masturbation. I just COULD NOT bring myself to do it. I figured since I had stopped everything was okay….
    I hope this makes ant sense. I am typing this as fast as I can before my husband and kids get home. We have never spoken of this to each other. I pretend no one knows, but probably they do. Am I ready to cut off my hand? My life is so unmanageable at this point. Will I ever find peace???
    Thank you for this post. I am dead spiritually. I know what I need to do. I just don’t know if I can find the energy to do it.

  59. Thomas Parkin says:

    anon,

    I feel that I should answer your post. There are , perhaps, several reasons why I ought not, but I feel I should, anyway.

    Firstly and mostly, I want to let you know my perspective on your problem. Please know that I DO NOT mean to minimize your suffering, or the reality of your spiritual condition. I have committed and seen sins so much worse than what you are describing,- so so so much worse,- and yet the Lord has been merciful to me and many many others, and will be merciful to you and certainly does not condemn you. You are certainly not pathetic, or any of those other adjectives you use. We live in these fleshy bodies and are all of us to some greater or lesser degree subject to what you describe of yourself. It may manifest in slightly different forms, or come with a somewhat different set of feelings for someone else -but almost all of us, men and women, will face some form of the struggle you are having.

    You must be a very good and sensitive person to suffer so much for it. I am absolutely certain that the Lord loves you, empathizes with your situation, understands your disappointments and pain, is not shocked or surprised by you, and wants to help you. I want to tell you with total confidence, knowing what I know from my own experience and watching others, that you can go to Him even with this sin again and again and again. You must never feel that you cannot go to Him. The point for Him will be that you are trying. Let Him in, and don’t be fooled into thinking that what you do puts you beyond His reach. We do not have to be perfect to receive His Spirit. We are cleansed by the Spirit but, think of this, _how could we be cleansed by the Spirit if we had to already be perfectly clean before receiving the Spirit._ It’s like saying I can’t touch soap until my body is clean. :) The desire and the striving is all. Every day turn to God, plead with Him, let His light in, and slowly this will become a strength to you – even if you never defeat it 100% in this life, you will begin to feel it is strength to you – never give up. Remember Paul’s thorn in the flesh – he says that it kept him humble even though he received many revelations. Think of that, he received many revelations even though his thorn in the flesh never went entirely away. Perhaps we might think, well, Paul’s thorn must not have been so egregious as mine. But we don’t know what it was, only that he had it, it caused him disappointment, and that he never gave up or let it stop him from going boldly before the Throne of Grace.

    I am personally finally finally beginning to understand what it means to be a chaste person. My own thoughts and sins sometimes cause me pain. Yet, I am nowhere near the man I was just a few short years ago. This is not primarily a matter of my own effort, but has happened through the influence of the Spirit as I have genuinely tried.

    I have prayed to our Father in the name of our Savior (isn’t that a wonderful word, Savior?!) for healing in your heart and in your family. I wish the very very best to you and all of us you likewise struggle. ~

  60. Thomas Parkin says:

    Ive just re-read what I wrote, and I want to say something else. I feel somewhat uncomfortable with the soap analogy. We do need to be cleansed, of course, as you know and feel – but it isn’t really that we have our sexual desires removed as transformed. We do not, and you will not, become an un-sexual creature – so don’t fear that. I’m having a hard time finding a way to describe the change. Initially, for me, and still, I suppose, what happens is that something vicious or mean or dark comes out of it. I suppose what replaces it is love. Again, best to you. ~

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