Recently I took my wife and teenage daughter to a large department store in a mall.
As they browsed through the makeup section, I settled in to take in the scene around me. The brightly lit counters and smart product displays demanded attention. Pictures of “the beautiful people” with a “don’t you wish you looked like me” pout were everywhere. Salespersons were engaging, smiling, and professionally dressed. Not far away, four step-stools were arranged near a special station where women could have free makeup applied by an expert in cosmetics.
Purchases were placed in a classy paper bag with a flat black satin coating. Everything about the store was staged to provide the ultimate buying experience.
Then I thought about what happens when the buyer gets their products home. The items will be removed from the black satin bag, and placed alongside an assortment of other cosmetics, which somehow don’t look as glamorous as they did in the store. The glitter of the buying experience will be gone; the thing they bought is now just another object in their collection.
If the buyer used a credit card and has meager financial resources, the letdown from The Experience will be more pronounced. There will soon be a bill in the mail that they’ll have to deal with.
But a week or so later, they’ll receive an email or flyer in the mail about the latest sale or product line that the department store has to offer. They’ll think about how much fun it would be to return for another round of The Experience. Thoughts of whether they need the product, how they will pay for it, or whether they might be better off being content with what they have are brushed aside. What can it hurt to indulge a little?
What I’ve just described is replayed thousands of times, every day, in another arena.
A man sits down at a computer, and hunts around until he finds a porn site with the “perfect woman.” He gorges on the images of a woman, who, he fantasizes, wants him sexually. The pose, the lighting, the attractive face and body; everything is staged to create The Experience.
Another man goes to the local Lust Temple; a stripper bar where he can find “the perfect woman” in the flesh. Perhaps a few dollars will go towards getting her attention… or something more. He’s after an Experience with “more and better” than the man who’s into pictures.
Like the buyer of cosmetics at the high-end department store, these men are hooked on The Experience: the ultimate sexual encounter that will thrill, satisfy, and fulfill.
The problem is that each Experience is followed by a crash; Lust neither satisfies nor fulfills, so he’s left with a soul-debt that lust can never repay. He is shamed, and vows never to turn to The Experience again. But one day not long after, the thought crosses his mind how wonderful it would be to indulge in another Experience. He thinks about how pleasurable it would be and how much he will enjoy it; the truth that he should be content with his wife and that The Experience will be immediately followed by another miserable shame hangover are brushed away. Soon he falls to the lie again.
A man who’s addicted to The Experience and wants to break free needs a mental, emotional, and spiritual overhaul, which includes:
1. Facing the destructive force of his self-absorption and pride. He must realize that his self-indulgence has him on the path to ruin where he could lose everything: wife, kids, job, and reputation.
2. Taking the actions that put pride and lust to death, such as accountability groups, dealing with the source of temptation in a no-compromise fashion, and going to counseling, if needed.
3. Learning the value of contentment. If he is married, he must learn that joy comes from being content with the one woman God has given him. This is the only place where satisfaction and fulfillment are found when it comes to sex.
4. He must learn to consider the consequences as much as he does “the benefits” before indulging in The Experience. I have been tempted many times, but often all it takes for me to turn away from it is to remember how it would feel to have to tell my wife, my accountability partners, and maybe even my readers here if I fell. I would hurt my wife, disappoint my friends, and there’s a chance I could become ensnared to lust all over again. I could lose this ministry. There’s much at stake; I would be a fool to throw it all away… especially for something as pathetic as looking at pictures of women who neither care about nor want anything to do with me.
5. Immersing himself in new, life-giving experiences to replace the illegitimate ones. Stopping the sin isn’t enough; he needs to fill in the gaps with the right things. These include learning to enjoy God’s presence, having fun with and being a blessing to his wife and children, making a difference in other people’s lives, having sex with his wife, going to church, reading books that point him toward Heaven, engaging in positive hobbies that stimulate creativity or good health, enjoying fellowship with his brothers, and giving away some of his money to ministries that are making impact for the Kingdom of God. Making deposits in his eternal bank account is far more satisfying than anything porn has to offer.
The Experience of lust is a snare that produces shame, emptiness, pain, and hunger for more of the wrong thing. The experience of sex as God intended it in a marriage between one man and his wife produces guilt-free joy, peace, and contentment.