The beautiful sin

A pastor's frank testimony of sexual temptation.

John Glass is a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in Ogden, Utah.

Someone once characterized adultery as a "beautiful sin." That's the impression made by the secular media, but real life exposes adultery as a hideous, ugly killer. I know. Let me tell my story. Since adultery starts in childhood, I'd better start there.

Girls were something I used to worship from afar. Ever since learning that there are two kinds of people, I preferred the other kind. In the second grade I took great fancy to a pretty brunet named Judy. One day I determined to kiss her. When she resisted my attentions, I resorted to pestering the poor girl for several weeks.

I used to dream about having a sister. In fact, I created an imaginary sister and spent hours talking to her. This desire for a sister and my obsession with Judy came, I think, from the relationship I lacked with my mother. She had been an adopted child, and the resulting feeling of abandonment must have left her with deep scars and a subconscious determination never to be hurt again. That would explain her emotional distance from me.

My brother was a couple years younger than I, and we should have been friends. We bickered constantly, though, which I understand is normal for children whose parents don't get along.

My father was spoiled by his mother and older sisters. Have you ever noticed the anger and impatience typical of spoiled people? They expect everyone to perform for them, and when that doesn't happen they become angry. My father was forever getting mad at me, whipping me furiously. He failed to spend time with me and never seemed interested in me.

We were members of the small Adventist church in our town. My father didn't get along well with anyone there, and some of the members seemed to direct their animosity about him toward me. I came to view the church as a hos tile environment.

After high school I attended a distant Adventist college, happy to get away from my "loved ones." For the first time in my life no one was perennially angry with me. That summer I gave my heart to the Lord.

In high school I rarely dated, because of the expense. I found dating in college to be more economical, so I proceeded to make up for lost time by dating 16 girls in the first 14 weeks. For the first time in my life I was enjoying life.

Just before my sophomore year, God called me to ministry. I was dating doz ens of girls, but no one seemed quite suitable. It wasn't until my first church assignment that I found my future wife, and a year later we married. To this day she is still the most attractive and appealing person I know. On top of that, she's my best friend. So how could immorality ever invade our relationship? It's a sad but simple story.

Immorality intrudes

Several years and pastorates went by, and I found myself in a responsible assignment. Our children were the pride of my life. Seeing our sanctuary crowded with eager listeners provided an emotional boost each Sabbath. I felt like I was coming of age, with a real future in the church.

One of my parishioners was a young wife who was raised in a difficult situation, leaving her with an unmet need for masculine attention. Jenny, as I'll call her, grew up familiar with sexuality--her mother brought home a different man almost every night. Jenny's idea of worth involved the power to use her figure to turn a man's head. She felt frustrated by the 50 extra pounds she still carried from her first pregnancy.

I became involved in Jenny's life trying to settle a running feud with her mother-in-law, who one day informed Jenny that she might as well get used to being plump. "I used to be thin until your husband was born, and you were thin until you had my grandchild. Face it, girl, you're going to be like this the rest of your life." Those were fighting words to Jenny, who proceeded through raw grit to lose all 50 pounds. To celebrate, she bought a wardrobe that did justice to her new looks. The effect was not lost on me.

In junior high I had contracted two serious problems: masturbation, and looking lustfully at girls, both of which provided me with "warm fuzzies." After my conversion, Jesus provided the solution to the sin of masturbation, but quite frankly, I was still "noticing" some members of my congregation. I knew that what I was doing was essentially immoral. People are multidimensional, not just sexual objects, and it is wrong to relate to them in a one-dimensional way. Besides, sexuality is restricted by the marriage covenant to my wife. My noticing was impairing our relationship, but I reasoned that it wasn't that serious a problem. I prayed about it now and then, but never became serious about quitting. I liked the warm fuzzies--the way I felt whenever I looked.

I still remember the day I first noticed the new Jenny. Her dress and the way she wore it would have been hard not to notice. Nice warm fuzzies. Jenny intuitively picked up on my looking, which fostered her sense of worth. More nice fuzzies. She began fawning over me. That gave me lots of fuzzies because, apart from my wife and children, no one had ever been really interested in me. I had always responded to anyone who showed the least interest in me, and here was someone who was fascinated with me. My feelings for her were mutual; she "spun my wheels" every time I looked. We were contributing to each other's downfall. On top of that, my hat size was a little larger than usual, thanks to all those people who sat there listening to me each Sabbath.

Demonic idolatry

Human beings are not the only inhabitants of this earth. Although invisible, Satan and his angels prowl the planet, hunting for prey. Looking back, I recognize how zealously Satan sought my demise by taking advantage of a genuine human need. But what can I say? I was vulnerable because I was attempting to meet my own needs by providing warm fuzzies for myself rather than by trusting Jesus to meet my needs.

Soon I reached the excruciating realization that I was on the verge of an affair. This became painfully apparent to my wife also, who told me one Christmas Eve that if I walked away from her, even though I loved her and our children, I would never come back. I knew she was right, but didn't want to admit it. It was the saddest Christmas of my life.

Pray? I was doing it by the hour. The trouble was I was getting nowhere, and both Jenny and the devil knew it too. Like a hard disk crashing on my computer, I knew it wasn't a matter of where but of when. I was scared half to death because I was staring spiritual death in the face: "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).

New Year's morning the crisis came. I told the Lord what was going to hap pen, and with a brokenness of spirit I had never had before, I asked Him why that temptation had such a hold on me. My answer came in a flash of insight from the Holy Spirit: "You have an idol that you have never been willing to give up--you idolize the female form."

I suppose you could psychologically explain that my looking at girls was an expression of an inner need for an emotional relationship with a mother who had never let me be close. The warm fuzzies were a surrogate answer to my real need for a loving mother. All psychology aside, the fact was that I had been cherishing temptation and that it was only a matter of time until I would commit the sin of physical adultery. It would destroy two families and my ministry.

That flash of insight brought me face-to-face with my besetting sin. "God," I pleaded, "I want to give this idol to You now. Please take it and for give me."

Instantly the power of that temptation was gone. I was free!

Thank You, Lord!

That New Year's Day was one of the most wonderful I have ever lived. For the first time I was free from having to look. After dinner my family and I en joyed several holiday telecasts with friends. I recognized the numerous ap peals to visual lust that permeated the programs. The temptation was there to look, but in my new-found strength, my No stood firm. "If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36, NKJV).

In succeeding months I had a difficult time quenching Jenny's advances. She incessantly chased me, apparently determined to ensnare me. I would be studying at my desk when suddenly she would enter my office. I had to be down right rude to her, and actually ran out of church one day before she finally stopped. I felt horrible about it, for my looking had incited an unholy response in one of God's children.

I had always thought that when Joseph was in the dungeon he sat there feeling sorry for himself. Now I believe he was telling God, "Thank You. Thank You! She's not going to be here!"

Since learning my lesson with lust, I've moved to a new district. More and more I'm experiencing God's true answers to my inner needs which really do exist. I now know He will meet those needs in His own way. I also know that "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain" (Ps. 127:1, NKJV). He is building my "house," and with my idol gone, He resides in His rightful place at last.

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John Glass is a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in Ogden, Utah.

November 1995

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