It seems many of us have an uncertain relationship with beauty, especially when it comes to the human form. We stand in awe at the breathtaking wonder of our created form, and yet there is often fear of objectifying and using others for our own selfish entertainment. How do we praise God for allowing such exquisite beauty to be present in the world, and not sin?
I am reminded of the Apostle’s words of being angry and not sinning, of not letting the sun go down on our anger and not giving an opportunity to the devil (Ephesians 4:26-27). There is a time for intense emotional responses, and yet we do not get to sin.
Can this be true of our intense sexual energies as well? Can we delight in sensual beauty and not sin? I believe so, though we are rarely taught of this possibility. And unfortunately, it seems this actually opens the door to sin.
Psychiatrist and spiritual counselor Gerald May uses the term detachment to describe a type of freedom of desire, which is not freedom from desire, but freedom of desire (see Addiction and Grace). The desire is free in the sense of not being attached to a particular object or outcome. It is still very much present; it is simply free and unattached.
This is the type of detachment called for in our sexual desires. It allows us to be fascinated by the beauty we see in each other, without becoming attached to it, either by restricting our focus to certain body parts or desiring some concrete sexual outcome. When our sexual energy remains free, we are able to grow in the fullness of loving God and each other.
Paul’s point of “not letting the sun go down” is also important to consider in handling our attractions. I see this phrase as more figurative than literal. It suggests we are to keep the issue in the open light of day, clearly visible and not hidden in the shadows of the night. That is, we keep the issue as part of our conscious awareness and not grow dull to it. This allows us to make a wise choice in how to respond and not be caught off guard.
When our sexual energy operates in the dark, we give an opportunity to the Enemy. Many stories have been told about individuals who have been blindsided by their sexual desires and eventually taken out by sin. We are more likely to be caught unaware and sin when we allow the “sun to go down” on how our sexual energy is being stirred.
Be affected by beauty and do not sin. Allow eros to be stirred without restricting its focus or assuming some concrete sexual expression is necessary. Practice being aware of your sexual energy while using your freedom to magnify love and celebrate something beautiful.
What do you think? How do you celebrate the beauty of humanity? Are there certain practices that help to keep your desires free and loving?