Considering walking in the light led me back here to try to bring this series of essays to some sort of conclusion. Much as I might like something more definitive, this—like the rest of my life—will be more in-process. But it highlights the advantage of taking notes by writing essays.
While it was probably good for me to type out Scripture verses and passages (copy and paste came later) and salutary to suspend my own judgments until a sufficient quantity of God’s own thoughts had washed over and through me, the notes that resulted from this exercise were simply typed lists of Scripture passages bound together only by the Greek or Hebrew word they shared. Though it shaped my understanding of the Greek or Hebrew word in question, once the meaning of the exercise dimmed in memory my notes didn’t help me recall it. Writing essays forces me to translate the gestalt that forms from word studies into a linear pattern of words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs that I can return to again and again as new patterns emerge.
This essay begins for all practical purposes with my divorce from my second wife (third wife if you’re willing to count my high school girlfriend). One of the reasons she divorced me was stated: “I don’t like your sexuality. And when I do, I don’t like myself.”
I’m persuaded a decade or so later—knowing we get along just fine now that sex and living together are off the table—that it wasn’t female emotional-speak, when a man should hear the emotion conveyed by the words rather than their literal content. She was a poet, speaking content and feeling in a few precise words. When I heard them I became the submissive sadist who had goaded her into a discomforting situation.
I was under the most extreme emotional duress, rejected again by another wife after having been accepted (including my masochistic sexuality). I had believed she was God’s gift to me, that He had given me the desire of my heart and He was about to take that gift away, albeit through my inability to please a wife. I don’t expect that He will ever taunt Satan with words like, Have you considered my servant Dan? There is no one like him on the earth, a pure and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil. I was in no shape to say blessed be the name of the Lord. That was accomplished entirely by the Holy Spirit. He flooded Paul’s definition of love back into my mind (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NET):
Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
That’s not to say that it had ever left entirely. To Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and to Love your neighbor as yourself, it’s nice to know what love is. But under extreme emotional duress Paul’s definition became my mantra.
The obvious advantage of this is that Paul’s definition of love coincides absolutely with the fruit of the Holy Spirit: the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control He is ever-producing in the believer, like a fountain of water springing up to eternal life. Jesus stood up and shouted out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’” And whatever the flow rate in ordinary times I’m convinced He increases it in times of duress, emotional or otherwise.
Though I was completely wrong the first time I was divorced to think that I could love like God and fulfill the law by turning Paul’s definition of love into rules I would obey in my own strength, the Holy Spirit was not wrong to make that definition my mantra. It reminds me of another mantra from the movie The Patriot.
It comes at the turning point for widower and war veteran Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson). He has avoided being dragged back into war until now. He and his two younger sons Nathan (Trevor Morgan) and Samuel (Bryan Chafin) prepare an ambush for the Redcoats who have captured his eldest son Gabriel (Heath Ledger). “What did I tell you fellas about shooting,” Benjamin asks his obviously frightened young sons. “Aim small, miss small,” they respond in unison. Benjamin prays, “Lord make me fast and accurate.” Nathan repeats “aim small, miss small” as a mantra to steady his breathing.
When I consider sin as a missing of the mark, “aim small, miss small” has a lot to do with how Paul’s definition of love worked as a mantra of righteousness. A bit of impatience with God or my wife was a long way from atheism or murder. Aiming at kindness kept the worst of my bitter diatribes at bay. A little envy did not lead to adultery. None of these small misses were quite as devastating as missing the absolutes of God’s law. Paul’s definition of love may well be the God-ordained hedge about the law working in consonance with the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Still, here I am with a desire for that combination of humiliation, pain and pleasure called masochism. Now, admittedly, I have no desire for missionary-position sex with somebody’s grandmother. Maybe this is the way sexual desire dies, most kinky last. I don’t honestly know. But it leads me aside here to another consideration.
Paul wrote believers in Rome (Romans 8:12-14 NET):
So then, brothers and sisters, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh (for if you live according to the flesh, you will die), but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.
The Greek word translated you put to death was θανατοῦτε (a form of θανατόω). I’ve been frustrated at times not knowing how to behead, stab, shoot or poison the practices of the body (πράξεις τοῦ σώματος), as distinguished from the works of the flesh (ἔργα τῆς σαρκός). In the past believers tried asceticism. Today psychology is all the rage. But I think that θανατοῦτε is a bit more passive than its English translation may seem.
Brother will hand over (Παραδώσει, a form of παραδίδωμι) brother to death, Jesus prophesied, and a father his child. Children will rise against parents and have them put to death (θανατώσουσιν, another form of θανατόω). Here θανατώσουσιν was associated with Παραδώσει, “to give into the hands (of another).” The brother, the father and the children would not kill directly but surrender their victims to another authority. And I think that pattern holds.
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were trying to find false testimony against Jesus so that they could put him to death (θανατώσωσιν, another form of θανατόω). When it was early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people plotted against Jesus to execute (θανατῶσαι, another form of θανατόω) him. But when it got right down to it the chief priests and elders handed him over (παρέδωκαν, another form of παραδίδωμι) to Pilate the governor. Even Pilate handed him over (παρέδωκεν, another form of παραδίδωμι) [to others] to be crucified. I am to put to death the [practices] of the body by the Spirit (πνεύματι, a form of πνεῦμα, dative case).
If I leave the killing to God, suddenly his beyond intimate knowledge of me as an individual is comforting rather than a threat. Let the Creator and Lover of my soul perform the spiritual equivalent of neurosurgery in his own time with his own steady hand. My part is to hand the practices of the body over to Him. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.
I do, however, recognize another desire of my heart, a desire to do word studies in the Bible to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He has] sent. When I spent countless hours typing Scripture passages, or even copying and pasting them, though I wanted and needed to do it, I felt guilty about all the time I “wasted.” I should have been making money or music or doing something “good.” What I’ve learned from all that I’ve suffered is that studying God’s word is doing something good.
Now I have more time off from work than I can actually afford. Bible study is not only good for me and the thing I look most forward to being off work to do, it is the most economical way to spend idle time. Also, it is time spent when every inclination of the thoughts of [my mind] is not only evil (raʽ, רע) all the time. Yes, I have learned a more circumspect view of who and what I am now, as well as my own capacity for doing good (apart from being led by the Holy Spirit). Why do you call me good? Jesus asked the ἄρχων. No one is good except God alone.
Of course He chooses which of the desires (mishʼâlâh, משאלת; Septuagint: αἰτήματα, a form of αἴτημα) of my heart (lêb, לבך; Septuagint: καρδίας, a form of καρδία) to grant and which to kill. The heart (lêb, הלב; Septuagint: καρδία) is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD (yehôvâh, יהוה) search the heart (lêb, לב; Septuagint: καρδίας, a form of καρδία), I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
If I’m honest about it, almost the last thing I would desire now is a wife to disrupt my Bible study routine. So, unless I plan to attempt a biblical justification for hiring a dominatrix, my masochism will just have to wither away. Though I failed to find a definitive “masochism is sin” in Scripture I think my life has demonstrated that for me at least masochism is not beneficial (συμφέρει, a form of συμφέρω). And I’ve spent the better part of a lifetime coming even to that tentative conclusion. I can certainly afford to be a little patient with the sexual obsessions of others.
I’ve written about Chad Allen before and won’t repeat it here. The love and grace he demonstrated toward his accusers as producer and actor of Save Me deeply affected me and I loved him, though we had never met. “The final thing the movie did for me was introduce me to the Gay Christian Network,” I wrote.
While not untrue it was perhaps misleading since the Gay Christian Network was nothing more than the Scriptural musings of Justin Lee to me. I didn’t always agree with Mr. Lee’s conclusions but his process gave me confidence that the Holy Spirit would work in anyone pursuing God through his word that way. Now that he has moved on to other endeavors the Gay Christian Network became the writings of Isaac Archuleta to me. I admit to being somewhat less sanguine about his more psychological approach.
So, can I live in a world where my heart’s desire to do word studies in the Bible is granted while my heart’s desire to enjoy hot, kinky sex with a loving wife is strangled? The simple answer is no—not on my own, not apart from the fruit of the Holy Spirit. This brings me back to Habakkuk. He didn’t describe the fruit of the spirit as a river or a fountain of living water but as the feet of a deer (Habakkuk 3:17-19 NIV):
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights (NASB: And makes me walk on my high places).
As a coda to this essay: My eighty-six-year-old mother fell again and broke her arm. My ex-wife is staying with her until I can get there.
 Job 1:21b (KJV)
 πράξεις (a form of πρᾶξις) is from the verb πράσσω, “to ‘practise’, that is, perform repeatedly or habitually.” For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done (ἔπραξεν, a form of πράσσω) while in the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10 NET).
 I might try again at another time with a word study of ἀσέλγεια.