The Exposing Nature of Desire
By Jack West, MA
Imagine yourself at a professional networking event.
You approach the drink station just as another person is finishing their drink order. The bar tender turns to you and takes your order. There you stand, waiting. You strike up conversation with your fellow adult beverage seeker.
After the obligatory exchange of names and occupation, while maintaining eye contact, you lean in and ask, “what is it that you truly desire in life?”
Your thirsty new friend makes a panicked glance past you, pretending to see someone who is apparently beckoning them to leave your presence immediately. Conversation detonated.
What is it about our desires that is so exposing?
I believe it is because to name our true desires is to communicate something of who we are beneath-the-surface, deeper than an opinion, or what we believe. It is to invite another to gaze into some of who we are. Naming our desire says something about us which we may not even fully understand.
Now let’s run the category of desire through our bodies. What does it mean to hold our sexual desire?
What do you want in your sexual life?
If we were to answer that question honestly we would be talking about a subject so complex that we often struggle to speak about it coherently.
What if what we desire sexually betrays the trust of another? What if our sexual desire takes us to a place of violating another? What if we have to betray our humanity and take increasing risks to our well-being to satisfy our sexual desires? What if our sexual desire looks like addiction?
Now, that is a conversation stopper.
But what if we could begin to have a different conversation about our sexuality? What if we could explore how we live out our sexuality, on a daily basis, and what that actually means? At work, in our intimate relationships, online?
I believe that there is room for a conversation about our sexual desires that will bear the fruits of freedom. Not freedom from constraints but the freedom that comes from being tethered to the truth. And I do not mean “truth” as a more nuanced moral argument against sexual exploitation and a pornographic culture. I mean a deeper relationship with The Truth where we are transformed by grace in the fluidity of desires.
Now is the time for communities – networks of relationships whose purpose it is to cultivate neighbors and neighborhoods – to push back against a desire economy that seeks to enslave sexual desire.
As a local pastor, I am deeply committed to helping our community navigate this conversation at a neighborhood and individual level. Every day, I experience and see the devastation of living under a code of silence around our unwieldy sexual desires that breeds shame and deep pain. A conversation where we speak of grace but rarely experience it.
However, I know there is “amazing grace” to experience in the confluence of our sexual desires because I have tasted it. It is devastatingly humbling. It is an experience that shatters my defenses and all projections of propriety and illusions of self. And it is the most freeing experience I have ever known. It is a movement from death and to life. As Paul writes to the communities in Galatia, “It is for freedom that we have been set free.”
No matter where you are starting from, you can join this conversation. Whether you are someone who is helping others find freedom in their sexual desires, or one who is bound; or, whether you are someone who finds themselves positioned along that continuum, as I would say that I am. Regardless of where you find yourself, if you are a pastor, ministry leader, or care provider, I invite you to engage the topic with me and others as we gather together on November 8th for a CIFT Ministry Training, engaging the topic of Desire, Intimacy and Sexual Addiction.