A Promise I Can't Keep?
I have been trying to be more intentional about honoring my word. I'm not dishonest, but sometimes I find myself making promises that I don't keep. Little things, like "I'll call you back later" or "It was nice running into you. We'll link up soon" or the infamous "I'll certainly keep you in prayer." I really mean what I say in those moments, but I don't follow through. Sometimes life happens, my mood changes, laziness sets in, or I simply forget. I have never considered this lying because my intentions are pure, but one day I heard a sermon that suggested otherwise. The preacher said that if you don't do something you say you will do, then it's a lie, even if you were sincere. I'm not sure if I totally agree, but I can say that the message convicted me to have more integrity. It led me to be mindful of saying less and doing more, and especially not to make promises that I can't keep.
Well, the Lord brought a scripture to my attention that referenced a very interesting promise. In the book of Job, we see Job mention a covenant that he made:
Job 31:1 I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think
upon a maid?
Another translation says "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman." I had read this scripture before, but it never hit me that Job said he made a covenant with his very own eyes. Google defines a covenant simply as an agreement. Digging deeper, the text uses the Hebrew word berith, which means an agreement or pledge with oneself. So, Job made a vow within himself that required him and his eyes to come into agreement. For Job and his eyes to have to come to an agreement, wouldn't that suggest that they disagreed at some point? If so, what were they at odds over? What was Job's desire? and what was the desire of his eyes?
| Man's Greatest Struggle? |
What makes this statement so intriguing is not that Job made a pledge within himself. It's that he specified it had to be made with his eyes. It's seems like Job's eyes desired to lust over young women while another part of Job didn't. There were two opposing desires at play. Apparently, the end result of the agreement was that Job would not lust over girls, but who determined that? What part of Job had enough pull to keep his eyes in check? and how hard did it have to fight to win that battle? All of this this led me to really consider the lust of the eyes and how it opposes God:
1 John 2:15-16 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the
eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
I thought about how powerful of a covenant Job made. What's interesting is that Job wasn't even talking about lust when he mentioned this. He was actually trying to justify his righteousness before God because he couldn't figure out why he was going through so much trouble. It says a lot that Job chose his mastery over his eyes as the feather in his cap of integrity. He led off with controlling his eyes as his flagship badge of integrity. Was this by happenstance, or did Job understand how challenging it is to control the eyes? Could it be that this is man's greatest struggle? Could this have even been Job's greatest struggle?
I questioned within myself if I could make that same covenant with my eyes. I realize that Job's covenant was as much with the Lord (and probably his wife) as it was his eyes. It was Job's desire to please God that fueled him to make that covenant (and presumably keep it since he was bragging about it). Surely I should be able to make this covenant too, right? I mean...I love the Lord. I'm a God fearing man. I teach Bible studies. So this should be a no-brainer for me, right? Well, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would probably be making a promise that I could not keep. But why is it that? Why is it so hard for me control my very own eyes?
| Bulletproof |
By God's grace alone, I've made tremendous strides with overcoming lust. I have had several consecutive years of sexual purity and I can honestly say that celibacy is not a struggle for me as it once was. I work in downtown DC and I see beautiful women constantly. I'm hit with the temptation to look at women every time I step food out of the house. Some of these women are provocatively "dressed to kill" while others just happen to be beautiful and demure. I win the battle with my eyes much of the time. I'll see a woman and acknowledge that she looks good, and then I will purposely not look at her when she walks by. Even when I win this battle, it always feels like there is this magnetism that is pulling my eyes to look again. I'm not even thinking about sleeping with the woman (at least not on a conscious level), but it's more about something that just draws me to the female form. There's something in me that wants to "see what she's working with" just out of curiosity. Job's covenant has me wondering how much of this magnetism is "human nature" and how much of it is just latent lust? Where is the line between naturally attracted and lusting? and how often do I cross it?
This is why I don't feel comfortable making this covenant yet. It's like dodging bullets. I can dodge bullets like the Matrix, but if you keep shooting them at me then I'm bound to get hit a few times. I know some may read this and think I'm overreacting to my natural attraction to women, but I believe it's something deeper than that (especially when the greatest struggles seem to be yoga pants, tight dresses, and halter tops). I even suspect that it has something to do with how I view women in general. It is natural to be attracted to women, but what type of women? and for what reason? It's concerning that I don't feel comfortable making that pledge and I do believe that it is possible.
Consider a vegan. Vegans who used to eat meat can arrive to a place where they don't even enjoy the sight or smell of meat. They still like food that is healthy, but they have resolved in their minds that meat is not good for them. Right now, it feels like I have to convince myself that scantily clad women are not good for me. I want to get to the place where I don't just understand that provocative women are bad for me, but I believe it. I want a made up mind. I want to get to a place where my appetite changes and my visceral response to immodesty would be one of disgust and not intrigue. I want to be bulletproof.
You know... Job never said that his eyes stopped desiring young women. He simply brought them under control. Maybe it is true that the eyes will always want what they want. I can accept that the flesh is corrupt by nature and always working against the Spirit. What I can't accept is not having enough mastery over the flesh to not make that covenant with the Lord. One thing I understand is that the environment will not change. If anything, it will get worse. This is why our focus has to be on an internal change where we have purity flowing on the inside regardless of what's happening on the outside.
Mark 7:15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into
him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are
they that defile the man.