Friday, August 15, 2008

Sensitivity vs. Sensuality

This morning I read “Soul: The Essence, Existence and Expression: Fleshly Presentation of the Soul” in “Biblical Psychology” in The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers pages 157-161. He argues that the disposition of the soul affects the body in physical, observable ways. At the end of the chapter he asks:
If we have come into experimental [experiential] touch with the grace of God and have received His Spirit, are we working it out? Is every organ of our body enslaved to the new disposition? or are we using our eyes for what we want to see, and our bodies for our right to ourselves?...God grant that we may determine to work out through our bodies the life which Jesus Christ has put into us by His Spirit.
I began to check out the Scriptural passages he used to support his thesis and my eyes locked onto a verse he did not refer to (I include the preceding two verses to supply context):
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. (Ephesians 4:17-19 NIV Emphasis mine.)
The contrast between sensitivity and sensuality is what caught my eye so I went to Strong’s Concordance to look at the original Greek words and their meanings:

Sensitivity: Apalgeo: to cease to feel pain or grief; to bear troubles with greater equanimity, cease to feel pain at; to become callous, insensible to pain, apathetic

Sensuality: Aselgeia: unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence

When we are separated from the life of God, we are unable to bear the trouble that comes to us. We, in fact, cease our ability to feel pain. This is an interesting idea and one that matches what I’ve been reading in The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender.
Honesty begins by admitting we are deceived, and that we would rather construct a false world than face the bright, searing light of truth.... Honesty takes away the need for living a life of lies.... The work of keeping the gnawing dogs of truth at bay actually takes far more energy than admitting the awful reality.... If a person devotes herself to change through honesty, she must fully acknowledge the internal and external damage caused by sexual abuse... But...choosing to open oneself to memories will, over time, draw them to the surface, where they can begin to be dealt with constructively.¹
The process of being abused and wounded creates so much pain that the mind shuts the door to the pain and what caused it in a self-protective bid to survive. But in doing so, we begin to relate to others in unhealthy ways, creating a style of living that does not satisfy. The block against the inner pain reduces our ability to touch much of what is inside for fear that in doing so, we might touch the pain. We have lost the sensitivity that Paul is talking about—the ability to feel and know those feelings fully.

In its place, we substitute sensuality—unbridled lusts and excess—that give us the illusion that we indeed can feel and enjoy, unaware that sensuality merely masks the pain that is inside. We do this in a multitude of ways: sexual addictions of numerous kinds, chemical addictions, overeating, undereating, overworking, underworking, emotional dependencies and more. We depend on everything but God in an attempt to numb our pain and feel alive.

This is our sin. And we keep ourselves locked into this sin until we’re willing and ready to face the pains of the past and present; until we loosen our grip on our sinful ways of self-medicating and sit in the honest acknowledgement of our pain while waiting for God and only God to bring healing. Dan Allender says, “Openness is the hunger to know coupled with the humility to wait.”² While we wait, we groan under the weight of our pain trusting that God can and will heal in his way and his time:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope, we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:22-25 NIV)
And so we return to Chambers’ question above:
If we have come into experimental [experiential] touch with the grace of God and have received His Spirit, are we working it out? Is every organ of our body enslaved to the new disposition? or are we using our eyes for what we want to see, and our bodies for our right to ourselves?...God grant that we may determine to work out through our bodies the life which Jesus Christ has put into us by His Spirit.
And we look again at what Paul wrote:
Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
Out of which am I living, sensitivity to pain, grief, trouble and the Holy Spirit or the sensuality of the addictions in my life that mask my pain and defy my need of God?

Lord, there are still many places in my life that I soothe in ways that exclude you, and pain that remains hidden because I doubt my ability to cope with it, though it isn’t really my ability I’m doubting but yours. Forgive me. Expose in me the self-protective means I have used to minimize my past pain and give me insight into my hungry, enraged heart³. I no longer want to settle for life as it has been. I don’t want to be satisfied with mud puddles. Instead I want to experience life to the fullest as you meant it to be. I want to move from the mud puddle to the glorious stretch of beach and sea*. Please bring to my mind whatever you desire to make known to me in whatever way you choose. Remove my false satisfactions so that I am sensitive to and can taste the true satisfactions that only you can bring.



¹Wounded Heart
by Dan Allender, pages 199-202.
²ibid. page 204
³Much of this prayer is a rewording of Allender, pages 208-210

*Based on the following quote from C. S. Lewis: "...it seems that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too more weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

No comments: