Caught Unawares

Temptation to look outside your relationship can sneak up on you—even in the best marriages.

This is how it sneaks up on you. I'm driving to work this morning, listening to sports talk radio, when suddenly they're interviewing a female athlete who's on the cover of Playboy.

And the thoughts start to take over. In 15 minutes I'll be sitting in my office, with internet access, and no one else around for an hour or two. Within seconds, I could be looking at those photos on any one of a thousand websites. No one would know.

What 20- 30- or 40-something straight guy, Christian or not, isn't attracted to images like that? I dearly love my wife and would never think of straying. What harm is there in looking? Isn't that what they just said on the radio? Isn't that a perfectly normal, harmless thing for any guy? Isn't that the message I get bombarded with every day?

As that radio conversation played out and my mind wandered far from the road, I rationalized why I was going to take a look. Hey, it's news, right? As a journalist, aren't I supposed to know what's going on in pop culture? It's not like I'm a porn addict. Just curious. Wouldn't it be okay just to take a quick look, satisfy that curiosity, and be done with it? Kind of like opening a pressure valve?

It's difficult to pray when you're on the verge of giving in to a powerful temptation. I don't want to disappoint God—pray for help and then blow it 20 minutes later. It's a lot easier just to turn my back on God for a while. I already know I'm going to blow it, so I'll just tune out, do what I'm going to do, let some time pass, and then talk to him again when I'm ready to ask forgiveness. The sins vary, but the pattern has played out before. I hate it.

"God, help." It's the only prayer I can utter at that moment. Even those two words take some effort, because now I've put this before him. (Like he didn't already know …)

I think of a book, Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, that talks about temptation. He advised not just to dismiss it immediately, ban it from my mind … because it will be back. Forbidden fruit has a powerful allure. Rather, he said, hold onto that temptation for a short time—not to act on it, but to analyze it with the part of my brain that isn't busy drooling and being held hostage.

So that's what I'm doing this morning.

I did not leave the house today—after praying with my wife, kissing her tenderly, and telling her I love her—thinking, Okay, now I'm going to go look at photos of a naked, famous woman. I'm going to ignore God's voice. I'm going to shut out what I know is right. I'm going to shut out the fact that I am completely satisfied by my beautiful, loving wife. I'll look because I'm curious. I'll look because I won't be willing to apply the brakes to a thought pattern that any number of signals could trigger.

It all sounds pretty dumb when stated that way. Why, then, am I wrestling with exactly those things? Why are we wired so that sexual thoughts and images are so appealing? The thing is, I like being wired that way, so long as I recognize what's healthy and what's not, and let God in on that process. Do I want to give in to this temptation? Absolutely not. And yes.

I e-mail a close friend and ask him to pray for me today and why. That's huge, because then I'll have to tell him later how I did. In a weird way, it's more difficult to disappoint a friend than it is to disobey God. Why is that?

This isn't an easy subject to discuss with my wife. She knows, and we do talk about temptation and the struggles that guys can face in this area. But for me to call her right now, in the throes of the temptation, and tell her all this would be awkward. "Sweetheart, you know I love you, but I have this strong desire right now to look at other women. You understand, don't you?"

So I don't call her. We'll talk tonight. I hope I can tell her it's been a good day, and why.

And it has. For the past hour, I've been typing these thoughts on the same computer I could have used to do something else. It means making up the work time tonight. But that's a small price.

The temptation is still there. It will be. But my lemming- like brain process has been interrupted. I've grabbed the Gideon Bible on my desk and read Ephesians 6, which talks about putting on the full armor of God. I've moved the photo of my family a little closer to my computer. I've stuck a Post-It note on the monitor that says simply, "Why?"

Little choices. Hesitations. Prayer. Answered. A freight train stopped.

One day's battle won.

Jim Killam, an MP regular contributor, teaches journalism at Northern Illinois University and is co-author of Rescuing the Raggedy Man (Xulon Press). He and his wife, Lauren, have been married 22 years.


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