Saturday, November 10, 2007

Your wife is not methadone despite what that Christian book says.

Your wife is not methadone despite what that Christian book says.

After my wife and I had our first daughter she started walking for exercise. Miles and miles she would go pushing that stroller through the streets of Arlington, a small town outside of Boston. One night in bed she told me she felt like it was helping her get back in shape. I asked her, “Do you think at any point you’ll do some real exercise?”

That was not a smart thing to say. I meant, “Do you think at any point you’ll join a gym?” But it didn’t come out that way, did it? Instead it sounded like, “You’re fat, why don’t you do some real exercise?” Not good.

And that’s not the dumbest thing I’ve said to her. I wish it were but it’s not. Sometimes I come up with these things on my own, that is I just blurt out what’s inside. But sometimes I say stupid things because I got stupid counsel. Fortunately though, I was able to see through some really, really bad counsel from the book “Every Man’s Battle.”

Every Man’s Battle, in case you are not familiar with it, is the book your pastor will give you if you ever tell him you’re struggling with lust or porn. The subhead of the book is “Every man’s guide to winning the war on sexual temptation one victory at a time.”

It’s sold something like a million copies and is pretty popular. The authors have done that thing where you write one book and then just change the target audience. For example, you can now also buy “Every young man’s battle,” “Every single man’s battle,” “Every woman’s battle,” and “Every red headed Uncle that was a marine’s battle.” OK I made up that last one but the other ones are available.

It’s a popular book because for the most part it’s got some good information in it. If you’ve never thought about how lust hurts you then maybe it’s a good place to start. But in chapter 10, the authors veer so far off course that I think it’s dangerous for people to read their advice.

Here is what they say on page 118, “your wife can be a methadone-like fix when your temperature is rising.” I’ll go into what I think about that, but on 120, the wife of one of the authors continues this idea, “Along with prayer, there are other ways you can help him win this battle. Once he tells you he’s going cold turkey, be like a merciful vial of methadone for him. Increase your availability to him sexually, though this may be difficult for you since your husband might have told you some things that repulse you.”

I really don’t know where to start. Pornography, sexual addiction, lust, these are creatures of selfishness. In the throes of this problem you care about your needs above the needs of all others. Your pleasure or the temporary numbing of whatever it is that pains you is your only concern. You will sacrifice your family, your career, your very future to fulfill this need. And by telling men to objectify their wives as methadone, this book is just extending the reach of this selfishness. You might not be acting out with porn, but clearly the sexual needs you’re coming to your wife with are not an outward expression of your deep love to her, they are the actions of an addict getting a fix.

And speaking of that, we’re called to love our wives like Christ loved the church. I haven’t read the entire Bible but is there ever an example of Christ getting a fix from the church? Treating the church like a drug that gets him through the day? Did Christ ever snort a line of the church during a particularly tense moment of his ministry?

Criticizing another book before you have a publishing deal is a great way to make sure your book never gets published. But recently when a friend’s fiancĂ© left him he was given “Every Man’s Battle” by his pastor. At that moment, in the lowest point of his life, he was desperate to believe anything that would get her back. After prying the book from his hands I realized that there were maybe a lot of guys out there getting the same nonsense put in their hands.

If this was the movie “Lean on Me” or I was a motivational speaker with really big, white teeth I would now tell woman, to stand up and shout “I am not methadone.” But this is really for the guys to which I’ll say this:

If you struggle with lust, read “Breaking Free” by Russell Willingham. Don’t treat your wife like an object. Don’t pretend God created us as sex addicts.

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