“What do you do when you know you are the object of someone else’s lust?”
Hard Question. Deep Question. Akward Question. Real Question.
I got that question via e-mail today. Some day I am going to learn that my experiences are not unique or exclusive. Here I thought I was the only person who had been in that place.
One thing about living in freedom from pornography is being freed from the mindset that women must be desired. After spending years doing everything in my power to attract men to my body, it’s a culture shock and a 180 degree turn to embrace a lifestyle of not only modest clothing, but true modesty in action as well.
There’s a delicate balance between being sexy and purposefully being as ugly as possible, and in that balance exists true God-honoring femininity.
Living in that balance is tricky, and it sure does not help when someone gives you a solid nudge.
After coming out of pornography, I made a super extra important point to make sure that nothing I wore, said, or did would cause a brother in Christ to stumble. I know what it is like to be caught in the trap of lust and, although they say every man goes there, I was by no means willing to escort anyone to that place. In fact, I saw it as my primary goal and objective to keep them from going to that place. To this day, I take it easy on the make up. To this day, I own one tank top (and it has a three inch strap). To this day I own no piece of clothing that hits above the knee.
I refuse to be a stumbling block, but some people just don’t know how to walk.
A couple years back, I was setting up for a church event with a friend of mine. He was one of the best guy friends I had had since leaving Bible college, and we enjoyed sports together and hanging out with our Sunday school class together. It definitely was never like “that,” whatever “that” is, but on this particular day, he told me he had a confession to make. I like to think I am a good listener, so I looked up at him from driving a stake into the ground and watched as he took a deep breath in and looked straight ahead (not at me). In one breath, he said,
“Jessica, there have been times when I have seen your body as nothing more than a woman’s body, and I have entertained lustful fantasies about you. Would you please forgive me?”
Run that by me again…
I somehow squeaked out a yes, but my brain was spinning. How had this happened? WHAT had just happened? I had spent years making sure men felt that way about me, and now I was doing everything I could to make sure they didn’t feel that way about me, and it wasn’t working. That was a crushing blow to my heart. It was a crushing blow to my walk in freedom. It broke my heart and bruised my joy. It killed my spirit and consumed me for the days to come.
I don’t ever mean to belittle the trauma of sexual assault that some women experience, but as I look back and tell that story when I speak, I can only liken my feelings to feeling like my soul had just been raped. I was doing everything in my power to keep men from going there with me and he had just gone there with me. A friend, a brother in Christ. I felt betrayed. It was probably one of the deepest hurts I have ever known in my life.
What had I done to do this to him? What had I done to make him do this to me?
I was dealing with a crippling case of modesty guilt.
As a church, we often chuck blame at our young women for causing our young men to stumble. If we dressed appropriately men wouldn’t have this problem. If we acted like we were supposed to, men wouldn’t have this problem. In those days following this little (big) incident, I was angry. I was frustrated. What more could I possibly do next to buzzing off my hair and wearing a burlap sack?
The following Sunday, I pulled aside one of the leaders of our church. We talked for about an hour. He assured me that I had never conducted myself in a way that was overly sexual or immodest, and that my past had never been reflected in my actions. Then he went on to drive the truth home,
This is his problem, not yours.
For the first time, I got it. I am not responsible for any one else’s thoughts, or actions. I had done all I could in my power to protect him from falling into the trap of lust, still he fell. That is an issue he has to take to his Father. There is nothing more I can do to help him.
It was a freeing moment for me. I think I started wearing makeup after that. I started to be more confident in who I am. I started to find the balance between acknowledging who God has made me to be and understanding the plight facing my brothers in Christ.
So for my sisters in Christ who find themselves stuck in that same place, please know this, if you can with clear conscience say you have done nothing to lead a brother to stumble, then there is no guilt for you to bear. If you become the object of someone else’s desire (other than your husband’s of course; be the object of his desire and be that to the fullest) know that we live in a fallen world and that our poor brothers in Christ have to contend with the balance between appreciating beauty and lusting after it.
The best we can is be role models of pure beauty and pray for the protection of their minds, hearts and eyes. The rest of it is in the hands of our Father, the One who made men attracted to women and made women attractive to men. It might not make life easy, but I’m fairly certain He knew what He was doing, and if we all take care to live in a way that glorifies Him, He will guide our steps and protect our hearts from the perversion of His beauty.