Sunday, July 14, 2013

Purity and the Battle for Integrity

This is a hard post to write. Purity is one of those qualities most often stressed in Christian circles. It becomes a looming giant of ideal perfection. It's also [censored] hard to attain.

Many consider purity to be actions-based, that one's actions make them pure or impure. I disagree. Outward actions stem from an inward desire, thought, or attitude. It stems from what is being fed into the mind and soul.

As Christians, we war against our "fleshly" yearnings, the desires to take actions, speak words, or think thoughts that run counter to the nature, goal, and directives of God. We ostracize ourselves from other Christians, thinking us fouler than the others, leprous, deserving quarantine.

THAT. IS. A. LIE.

We are told, particularly in the New Testament, to confess our sins to one another and to uphold one another. We are not meant to be ostracizing ourselves. Part of Christian Fellowship is reaching out and finding that other are experiencing/have experienced the same things.

But I digress.

This summer has been one of forging. God has definitely done a great deal of work in my life and it's not really been that pleasant. The best image I can devise is one of a blacksmith forging a ploughshare. The smith must heat the metal and hammer it repeatedly into shape, never letting it cool until the blade is formed and is ready to be sharpened and put to its proper use.

Over these short few months, I have had the... pleasure... of having a particular vice of mine worked upon. I have an avid curiosity which nothing piques better than the scintillating, sensual, titillating, or bizarre. With the vast internet at my fingertips, a bad combination very easily arises (or, more correctly, had previously arisen).

So, my actions: I started cutting back. When that didn't work 100%, I blocked sites. New sites with softer, cleaner content (but still in the same vein) were "stumbled upon" (and later blocked). And the cycle repeated itself once more.

Each time, I asked God, "Why again? Why now? Why is this all happening?"

"You haven't learned the lesson, you're just whitewashing over the cracks. You're supposedly preparing to serve Me on your residence hall come this fall, you're in a deepening relationship with someone and this needs to be addressed."

I'd been looking for a plaster, something to cover up the wound and make me "feel better". It wasn't working. I felt hollow, thin (still do - I'm still being worked upon), and false, like a mask upon a mannequin.

Recently, however, something seems to be coming together - an idea, a principle that is being hammered into me, so to speak: Integrity.

I'd been fighting mostly earnestly on my own strength, but I was also walking into sin. I was confessing to God, seeking in His forgiveness while a part of me relished the distraction. There was little integrity to my efforts and pleas. Each time God worked something out of my life, freed me from a particular sin/vice, I walked myself back into something similar to (but removed from) what I was previously doing.

I was like a dog returning to its own vomit and I was, am, disgusted at myself for it.

My prayers were, "God, deliver me from x. Give me the strength to fight x. Give me the wisdom to see x coming." God did, and I walked myself into y.

That was the whitewash, the attempting to cover the surface issues. I need/-ed to go deeper, to face the source of these issues, the underlying desires for fleshly satisfaction warring against the calling to present myself as a "living sacrifice to God, wholly pleasing Him". "Wholly." I need/-ed to grow in integrity and in my personal relationship with God before any of this will/would be resolved.

Now, my prayer is this, "God, give me the integrity to be who I present myself to be, who I should be; to not only say I'm free, but to actually be free; to live as one walking in Your footsteps, forsaking sin, wrath, anger, lust, immorality; to not be subjecting myself to the desires of self-satisfaction, worldly pleasure, and instant gratification..."

That's my prayer, well, a large portion of it, anyways. This is a battle that cannot be fought alone or in one's own strength, but must be fought with the full armour of God, with the perseverance and prayers of fellow believers, and the grace, mercy, forgiveness, and strength of God Himself.