The Thankless Offering of Fighting Our Urges
I don't know why a loving God would allow certain people to be born with biological urges that pull against his commands.
And that's not just some subtle, PC way of talking about homosexuality, either. It's a comprehensive statement.
Based on data collected by Gallup in 2015, 96.2% of adults identified as straight (though some research suggests as low as 90%). But no matter what you believe about how being gay syncs with the Bible, there's a heck of a lot more going on in our culture than whatever is or isn't happening in that 3.8% (or 10%) of our population.
More than 68.8% of our adult population is considered obese while the Bible forbids gluttony.
Statistics on infidelity vary wildly, but a modest estimate suggests that 21% of all men and 17% of all women cheat on a spouse, though the Bible forbids adultery. When questions about mental infidelity are asked ("Have you ever THOUGHT about"...) , those numbers explode. The percentage of men and women who have imagined being unfaithful is astronomical, though the Bible clearly states that whatever we want in our hearts is something we have essentially done.
7.4% of the adult population is considered either alcoholic or abusive of alcohol while the Bible forbids letting alcohol control us.
There are genes associated with violent crime which make a human 13 times more likely to participate in repeated aggression toward others, though the Bible commands us to turn the other cheek and to love others as ourselves.
18.2% of the population suffers from some sort of mental disorder, many related to chemicals of the brain which lead to financial irresponsibility, sexual risk taking, self-harm, or manipulation of others. All of these are forbidden by the Bible in one form or another.
So many of us are born with urges that contradict what the Bible commands.
We can choose to give in to those urges because we were born with them, and many of us do.
We can say, "I was born like this," or "I just need this right now," or "I can't resist this because it's how I was made."
We can shake our fists at any sort of deity we consider cruel enough to drop us into an impossible biological situation and yell, "This is YOUR problem, God, not mine. If You didn't want this for me, and if You are so powerful, why didn't you stinking get in my DNA when you were knitting me together and rewire me? If you don't like what You made, You should have made me differently."
I've felt that response swell up in me at times.
I was born with some inclinations that make it very hard to submit to anything other than my biological wiring. I see how some of those urges could harm me and other people, so I fight them (and fail, and fight them, and fail). But sometimes I get so tired of feeling like I'm walking upstream, especially in a culture where so many people seem to be on float trips, yielding to wherever their current takes them. I've grown up in the era of "chase your bliss," and Mary Oliver, and all that.
And yet, when I read the broken confessions of writers who have fought battles against their urges, I'm moved by the depth of what they have learned. When I find someone who has used his or her genetic makeup as a classroom, willing to put every impulse on the table and dissect it, I am undone by the riches that sacrifice tends to provide to the world.
Joseph Campbell's _Hero With A Thousand Faces_ describes a protagonist's descent into an underworld, a journey into dark places where wisdom is gained for the culture.
I'm not a big Campbell fan in general, but the idea that we can go into some sort of lower recesses of ourselves and face the dragons which torment us moves me.
Zooming out, I can see the value in admitting that there are parts of me that want to destroy me -- even if they are natural, or inborn, or impossible to splice off.
Looking back to Greek tragedy, to Shakespearean tragedy, to the old epics of many cultures, we find humans struggling against themselves. It was once understood that our first impulses were not always our best ones.
Many of the first stories (not just Christian) can be fit into a schema that runs like this: "Hero wants to ___________, because he is wired to ___________. And yet if he _______________, he will destroy himself and others."
I'm not writing this as a moral proclamation. There are many things I don't understand about biology, about ethics, about how to interpret the Bible. Don't read this and imply that I am condemning your urge, whatever it is.
However, in the middle of an "I have a right to please myself" culture, I do want to give a shout out to those brave souls who are willing to look at their desires objectively. It takes so much humility to do what you are doing.
I know you aren't appreciated for this a lot of the time.
I know you are lonely.
I know it's hard to even talk about your battle, because so many people think it's superstitious and pointless.
Either that, or they can't identify with your battle because they have different wiring, and they shame you for having to fight for this at all.
As you experience the fatigue of this struggle, you want to just give up and relax like everybody else.
All around you friends giving up, giving in, resigning to the current of whatever-comes-natural to them, and you wonder if all these years of asking hard questions are just a waste of life. Are you going to get to the end of everything and regret choosing the harder path?
Besides, your fight can make the rest of us feel terrible, so we don't support you much. You make us feel bad. We don't want to see you hanging on still.
You're like that guy who is still going to the gym in mid February after we've broken our New Year's resolution to work out. We kind of just want you to shut up.
But don't shut up. Please don't shut up.
Please don't stop trying. Please don't stop asking hard questions. Don't throw away the humility it requires of you to head back into this mess and learn from it.
You are a rare warrior in these times. A warrior and a physician.
And as you go down into the darkness to face yourself, it could be that you find a Jesus who is more dimensional than the easy, flannel-board Jesus propaganda we've been given.
It could be that as you struggle for Him and against Him, that you ask terrible questions, and make terrible mistakes, and throw away some things, and gain some others, that you emerge with truth that saves a friend from her darkness.
And because you have gone into fear and weakness to find that truth, it will be at truth that those who spend their lives just giving in can't begin to offer.