Places in my mind that I had to work so hard to keep empty before marriage evolve in a surprising way now that I’m hitched.
Born and raised a good ol’ M’armon
Growing up as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (a.k.a. the Mormons), I had to follow super strict rules.
Among those rules, perhaps the hardest was The Law of Chastity: No pornography, no masturbation, no sex before marriage, and keep those thoughts in your brain super squeaky clean.
That last one in particular–clean thoughts–for an imaginative young boy: that was a doozey.
Don’t think of a red ball.
I told you.
Do not…think…of a red ball.
Stop it! No red ball!
Opa! Scroll down really fast so that the red ball is off-screen. Be good!
And no, just because you caught a glimpse of a red ball doesn’t mean that you can continue thinking of a red ball. You have to put that red ball out of your mind.
Are you keeping your mind clean from that red ball? I hope so…
Ethics, Mormons, and non-Mormons
Hopefully the metaphor there is obvious: All of the other elements of The Law of Chastity simply require physical restraint. But keeping control over the lustful actresses performing on the stage of the mind? Good luck, Chuck.
Now, briefly, perhaps some of you may be wondering one thing in particular: Who cares? Why avoid at all such a natural and healthy desire anyway? (Or something similar)
It’s a fair point, and a worthy source of deep debate.
I hope that you can simply bear with me. It’s a matter of personal choice in my case. Following the Law of Chastity is bringing me a surprising blessing, and I want to share it with you.
(Feel free to disagree and/or share your story about why in the comments.)
Will this ongoing challenge (clean thoughts) affect my marriage?
Of course, with practice I got better at it, but the temptation never went away (and probably never will). In my twenties and earlier thirties, as I looked to the future I wondered how the challenge of keeping my thoughts clean would play out when I found my wife.
I thought to myself, Sure, the first six months or so of marriage the temptation won’t even be there. I’ll be married! Finally free! But what about after that?
What if…what if, once all the early, crazy honeymoon hormones wear off and my mind starts wandering again…what if I don’t have the strength to keep my thoughts centered?
How will those temptations floating around in my brain affect my marriage? I hope I never, ever give in!
Now, I’m two and a half years married, and I know the answer…
All that time I spent worrying, never once did it occur to me what the answer would actually turn out to be.
The sweet spirit and personality of my wife is filling in the many empty corners of my mind.
When I accidentally stumble on some pornographic advertisement, the thought of which would have had a wide open empty stage before marriage, that now suddenly finds competition.
The way my wife likes to cook for me, even though I never ask her to: the very feeling of having someone care about me in that way has set up a little lemonade stand front and center stage.
When some unexpectedly risque scene from a TV show I saw ten years ago comes floating to the surface of my mind and suddenly wants attention, it finds that there isn’t much space.
As though from some hidden room deep in my subconscious, the memory of playing backgammon with my wife until midnight, the two of us mid-game in a lovers’ quarrel over whether to play by the official or house rules, that memory almost magically appears before any other thought can get there.
Some part of my mind–not the conscious part–doesn’t want to let the lusty thoughts on stage. Some part of me deep down, some part knows better. There’s a real relationship, which has value and meaning, and a part of me over which I do not have direct control is attenuating the feelings of temptation.
What a lucky guy I am to have someone who can pleasantly take up space in my mind.
Feel free to share your thoughts below, even if…especially if your experience runs counter to mine!