Bit by bit.
Gerald May tells the story of a middle-aged man, a lawyer who was addicted to a particular sexual relationship.
He had long been attracted to a coworker, and, as they worked closely together on an extended project, they fell in love. He kept it all secret from his wife, and he hated the deceit of it, but his lover mad him feel “like I was really alive and free for the first time in years.” At first it did not seem like an addiction at all, though he could hardly think of anything but her. It was, at first, a real romance. He met his lover once a week; he brought her gifts; she listened to the yearnings of his heart. As time went on, however, he began to feel compelled by the relationship. He craved his weekly fix of self-esteem and sexual release, but he felt depressed after each encounter. There were times when he didn’t even want to go but somehow felt he had to. His lover sensed this, and their relationship became turbulent. Countless times they resolved to end the affair, only to wind up back in each other’s arms. They sincerely tried to stay apart, but they failed. He prayed for forgiveness and release, but nothing seemed to happen. He became increasingly fearful that his wife would find out or that his lover would become vengeful. He saw a therapist, and he shared his secret with a trusted friend. Neither could help him change his behavior, but they did help him realize that he was more compelled than in love. As time passed, his work suffered. He and his lover talked for hours trying to find a resolution. Then one day he said to her, “This is the last time I’ll be here.” “I know,” she answered. It was. Afterward, he said, “I just didn’t go see her again, that’s all. It was hard; I would think of her and wonder about her and remember the times we’d had. But I also knew I was worth more than that, and so was she. I just didn’t go back.”
Dr. May speaks of this as “deliverance”: “A particular eruption of grace strikes into a person’s life like a lightning bolt of loving energy; the power of God’s goodness shines in victory over a particular human enslavement or misfortune. The energy is weakened; the person is empowered…. Without any evident reason, the weight of an addiction is lifted.” This is how grace operates. It is not of us; its origin is beyond us. It is “an obvious intervention by the hand of God in which physical structure and function are changed and growth toward wholeness is enabled.” It is a gift from God; it is the power of God. We are changed by grace.
The lawyer has found himself attracted to many other women in the years since his affair, but he deals with his attractions quickly and simply. “I start to think about what it would be like with a certain woman, and then I recognize the pattern. I don’t fight the fantasy off; I don’t try to put it out of my mind. I just don’t indulge in it, and it goes away. For a while, I thought I could enjoy the fantasies without acting on them. But it was not sufficient to do that. So I simply notice them and let them pass of their own accord. It’s like getting rid of any alley cat. You don’t have to kick it; just don’t feed it” He says he enjoys the company of women more than ever “now that they are people, not objects.”
There is a mystery to grace. We do not control it. While it is true that we are called upon to wrestle with our addiction and to open ourselves to the power of God, it is also true that there is no predictable connection between our efforts and God’s grace. Grace just comes. This is all one can say. Grace cannot be predicted nor controlled; it is not manipulated nor deserved. All we can do is open ourselves to God. God will be God, and he acts as he wills.
- Objectives: (georgehach.wordpress.com)