One of my favorite songs goes like this…
“Was this over before, before it ever began? Your kiss, your calls, your crutch, like the devil’s got your hand. This was over before, before it ever began. Your lips, your lies, your lust, like the devil’s in your hands…”
It’s the chorus of a song by Anberlin called “The Feel Good Drag”, an acoustic version of which you can listen to here. The song is about the destructive effects that lust has on relationships and society in general. Essentially, it is a monologue from the protagonist who is addressing the seducing antagonist, who in turn has dragged said protagonist to a place he doesn’t want to be. This crooning (but rocking) serenade cries out in warning to others to avoid similar situations, which is a message that our culture desperately needs to hear. What I really like about the song is that it’s essentially a pop-culturally appropriate rendition of the message found in Proverbs 7. It sounds to me like the song comes straight out of the text, essentially mirroring the narrative in verses 6-23. Take a minute and read it; it’s a sad story, and what is even sadder is that some people live it out to their own destruction.
I think, though, that the story is more than just a cautionary tale warning against literal adulterous affairs. I’m convinced it’s also a danger-notifying flare for our own flirtations with the Great Adulteress. The hard fact is: everyone has played out this story with the Great Adulteress at some point or another, everyone. And the saddest part of it is that so few people are willing to admit it.
“Huh? Great Adulteress? What are you talking about? Are you accusing me of adultery?” That’s just the thing, I don’t have to. Jesus did. We all are familiar with his statement to the Pharisees that lusting after a woman is committing adultery in your heart. Everyone, guy and girl alike, has lusted at least once. So you’ve committed adultery, I’ve committed adultery, everyone has. Now as for answering who the Great Adulteress is, that’s a different question entirely.
I suppose the best way to explain it is to show you where the concept first came from. One morning after my quiet time I had a moment of inspiration and wrote furiously in my journal for more than twenty minutes. Here’s an excerpt from that session…
“The object of my lust in my mind is not the person I like to think it is. Whatever fantasy takes my fancy is not as it appears, even in my mind’s eye. No twisted guise of future love can be justified, because it is neither a true love nor even accurate. The woman [or man] in one’s mind is never who it seems, rather it is the greatest adulteress taking whatever form it chooses. It is not a hidden fountain of delight, but a hideous demon of destruction and misery. Do not let her fool you, o man! She is not what she appears! All deceptions come from their father, and this is one of his finest! It may take the form of a person, real or imagined, but it is only a fiend of Hell. How foolish am I to give it even a nanosecond of consideration. It must not even be acknowledged, but banished the instant it makes its presence known. Dear God, how could I be so foolish as to flirt with this Great Adulteress?…”
The Great Adulteress is quite literally a figment of your (and my) imagination, but a dastardly figment at that. Imagination is one of the greatest gifts God ever programmed human beings with, but it is also one of our elements that depravity has twisted the most. Our ability to conceive of possible worlds is what lets us dream dreams, solve problems, and craft wonderful stories. But possible worlds are also where the Great Adulteress has her abode and wars desperately for our very souls.
See, the real problem with sexually provocative images isn’t really the images themselves, but the fact that they give the Great Adulteress ammunition. Pardon the references, but the Great Adulteress is quite like both the Decepticon whore in Transformers 2 and Mystique in the X-Men movies: she can take whatever surface form she likes, but underneath she’s nothing but a vile and hideous monster. I sometimes think there might even literally be a demonic element responsible for her, to be honest. But whether she is a demon or simply the spawn of our own depravity matters not; either way she must be fought with everything we have.
Yet all too often we leave her in peace without so much as even lifting a finger. After all, thinking it isn’t the same as doing it, or so we rationalize. But we cannot afford to rationalize. Even worse, we cannot afford to pretend like she doesn’t even exist, as we so often do. If we are even to begin slaying this monstrous dragon that we all have inside, we have to at least acknowledge that it exists. It seems like this is one area where we are most fearful to admit we struggle, which really is really stupid considering that of all the different arenas of sin, this is the one where absolutely no one can point a finger because we all struggle with it. So let’s just be honest with each other for once and get this ball rolling.
That just gets things started, though. How do we actually get down to the nitty-gritty of fighting the Great Adulteress? The answer to that question is astonishingly simple but extremely anti-American: we pray for grace and run like there’s no tomorrow. When she calls, we do as the foolish man in Proverbs 7 should have done and refuse to even give her the time of day. When she presents herself, we make like Joseph and get the heck out of Dodge. Of course that’s easier said than done; running from your own mind isn’t a piece of cake, but it is possible. Most importantly: we pray for God’s enabling grace to prove itself strong in our weakness, lest we think that we’ll beat her off all by ourselves. And when we fail, we ask for forgiveness remembering that same grace is greater than our sins and pick up the fight again.
But if you don’t fight her, if you just let the Great Adulteress have free reign of you mind, you may rest assured: just like with the foolish young man, it was over for you before it ever began.
“O sons listen to me, be attentive to the worlds of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do no stray into her paths, for many a victim she has laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.”
– Proverbs 7:24-27