The Momalom topic of the day is...lust.
I rolled the word around in my head and off my tongue over and over yesterday. What is lust anyway?
I thought of how we describe a healthy baby's cry as lusty and the brilliance of an object is its luster. But lust all by itself almost always connotes something sexual. It also almost always connotes something illicit or indecent. Lust has a place though, an invaluable place in a whole and holy marriage. In marriage we find a place where it's safe to crave, to hunger, yearn, desire...lust.
In this unexpected Momalom assignment, another piece of the vast writing that Mango & I have done on marriage has fallen into place - the piece on desire. Though we wrote quite a bit on the value and meaning of physical intimacy, desire is different. It's the relish, the final ingredient without which the whole dish loses its flavor.
It's about wanting
and being wanted
and wanting to be wanted.
It is what sets eros apart from all the other kinds of love. Unlike other loves, eros requires a mutual desiring. Equally, it is giving and being given to, loving and being loved. As such, it also requires that we say what we want...that we, perhaps, lust, for our partner. Lust is going after what you want because you're desperate for it, hungry for it. It's a craving for closeness - body, mind and soul. And this is so essential to a marriage that is alive and whole and beautiful.
You see, marriage is only partly about doing our best to love our partner, pouring out our words and actions to bring them joy and satisfaction and fulfillment. That is only half the picture. The other half is about allowing our own needs to be met, desires fulfilled, wants answered. In fact, we deprive our partner of the ability to fulfill their own calling to love us in marriage if we cannot say what we desire.
I believe that it is the desire of God for us to love and be loved. Scripture tells us that God is love. And I believe that when we refuse to be loved, we are refusing to accept our partner's God-given calling to love us. We're interfering with their life's calling, preventing them from accomplishing God's mission for them here on this earth. So, in fact, accepting love is also a calling. And this is not a passive acceptance, but an active calling. We must take responsibility to ask for what we want, to go after what we long for and desire.
And I don't believe it's always as easy as it sounds. Though lust looks lusty, it isn't always so simple to go after what we hunger for in a marriage. It's vulnerable to say what we want, especially when we're in them middle of difficult or stressful circumstances, misunderstandings, or conflicts. And it's difficult to persist when one way of asking doesn't get us what we want. We forget that spouses are like foreigners, coming to each other from different family cultures, and it takes time to learn the language of the other. Sometimes we have to ask and ask and ask again...but this is what hungry people do. Likewise, our partner isn't always in the position to give, and all of our desires must be rooted and grounded in care and love. We must bind our lust to our love for our partner. They must be inextricable so that we never ask without regard for the person whom we are asking.
Most often, I think one person gets caught up in giving, in trying to be the perfect, selfless partner, the one who takes care of everyone and everything while denying their own hungry self. This kind of thinking, though, leads to a relationship that lacks depth and growth. When a person fails to tell their partner what they want, refuses to pursue their own needs, they don't allow their partner to really know them or to be fulfilled in their own call to love. The giving becomes empty because it doesn't exist in relationship, it lacks mutuality and synergy. It fills up the other person for a while but does not build relationship. Eventually the other person feels empty, too, because they don't really know their partner and, therefore, cannot reciprocate the giving. A refusal to speak your desires is a refusal to be known.
And so, to fulfill the call of marriage, the call of eros, we must risk pursuit of those things we crave, our innermost hungers and desires. We must stop being saints and martyrs and risk being known. We must dare to yearn for those things we want...in fact, to lust for that person whom we are called to love.