My wife has some peculiar eating habits that I am still not used to. For example, when I am happy eating the same thing every day, my wife likes to eat seven different things per meal.
I have a quasi-ascetic outlook on food. Food is good, its sensual pleasure is a gift from God. But it is also a distraction from desiring God, and what we often like is not good for us in this regard. So, I have a battle within me like Augustine: “And oftentimes it is doubtful whether it be the necessary care of the body which still asks nourishment, or whether a sensual snare of desire offers its ministry” (Confessions, Book X, Chapter 31).
My wife is the opposite. She loves flavor. Everything needs to be salty, sour, spicy, sweet, separate from one another, and combined into a flavor bomb of epic proportions.
Because I am gluten-free and my wife is Asian, neither of us eat bread. So, on one occasion she had an opportunity to have a hamburger. That day she it happened to be a really good one. She had a smile from ear to ear, with cheeks puffed out stuffed with burger. I swear, she looked happier eating that burger than I have ever seen her, including our wedding, on vacation, petting the cats, getting the job of her dreams, seeing her family for the first time in a few years, and etcetera. She just really appreciates food on a level that I cannot even contemplate.
So, as you can imagine, when we walk past food (ice cream, pastries, pizza, etcetera) and she sees it, you can watch her eyes pop out of her head.
My wife when she sees food she likes.
She turns her head to get a quick glance at food there, food here, food everywhere. She loves the sight of it, and I imagine, she probably fantasizes about eating the food too.
There’s no sin in it. It’s just food.
Yet, unbeknownst to many women, this is exactly how heterosexual men feel about good looking women in general. Fallen men, dead in their sin, take their fill. They look at women they work with, drive pass, sit across at church, stand next to in the aisle, on the computer, as much as they can without getting caught in a situation that would be socially awkward. The thought of a woman brings sensual pleasure to a man.
A Christian lays aside the old man and his pleasures (Col 3:9) and fights such thoughts and glances. But, it’s a fight. And a sight of an attractive woman never stops feeling enticing and sensually pleasurable, even if on an intellectual level it is burdensome because of His yoke to Christ.
As for myself, I would consider myself surprisingly good in this department because of a gift of God’s grace. He has totally changed me, as I do not allow the realm of my mind to retain fantasies and I block out thoughts. I turn my head away from attractive women and I purposely seek social situations where I can avoid them. I’m one of those people who wouldn’t be embarrassed to share my internet browsing history, unless my wife watched a bunch of Taylor Swift and fitness videos.
Yet, do not consider this as boasting. God has given me such grace, but even still when there is an attractive woman I have noticed an odd occurrence. My will desires obedience and delights in the Law. So, I command my neck to turn away from the general direction and block any associated thought patterns. Yet, I can catch my eyes, not practicing what I would like to do, gravitating back towards the offending direction.
So, I turn my head farther away, and the eyes compensate yet again. Clearly, it is no longer I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. Thankfully, my neck (and back if need be) can out-compensate my eyes.
And this is the daily battle that Christian men deal with, one that women do not understand because they are not drawn to men physically as they are to the glance of really tasty food. So, even when one learns she is allergic to some kind of food, that food never stops looking tasty.
The same is true with Christian men and how they feel about women. They know it is bad to look, so like an allergy they abstain from partaking in it. Yet, they are haunted by the knowledge and ever-present desire that they still want it.
Now, my final opinion on this matter is that if a man fights this battle and finds himself losing, he needs to pray. There is a significant possibility that such a man does not even know Christ, for we know Christ by a miracle of the Holy Spirit indwelling us. A man who knows Christ, is in Christ. He literally has God in him, because the Holy Spirit indwells him.
So, he cannot make a continual practice of sin, because it is a literal impossibility. The Holy Spirit will not allow him. Like Paul, we will often find ourselves doing what we hate, but we won’t do it all the time, with no wrestlings against it.
God, give us the grace to put to death the old man and live according to the reality that Christ is in us. Amen.