For four years I was an Assemblies of God minister AND a monk with the Brothers and Sisters of Charity. This is an excerpt from my book Taking Off My Comfortable Clothes: Removing Religion to Find Relationship , which recounts some of the the lessons I learned as a minister/monk.
Naturally, I had plenty of opportunities to have sex, but three things that kept me from doing so. One, I believed in God’s Word, and it said sex before marriage was a “no-no” (“No-no” is a literal translation of a Hebrew word that means, “Please don’t do that, because the years of resulting pain will be WAY BEYOND any momentary pleasure.”). Two, I didn’t want the possibility of a little Jimmy running around, however cute he may be. And three, if I was going to engage in what my dad called “amateur night,” I wasn’t going to do it with someone who would be spreading stories about my talents (or lack thereof) around town. I’d wait until I was married.
Does that mean I didn’t think about sex while I was a monk at the Little Portion? Nope. Thought about quite a bit. (What? You were expecting a different answer? Hey, I was a monk, not an angel).
Fortunately, I found the sexual tension in our blended community to be blessedly low, which is a significant advantage to those of us to have taken a vow of chastity. We had no television reception, no internet access, and didn’t watch R-rated movies. The Little Portion is not inundated with the media’s fixation on sex, the men and women dressed modestly, and a man didn’t travel in a car alone with a woman (unless they were married. To each other.). That relieves a lot of pressure.
But even in a monastic community, the temptation and the opportunity to have sex remained. This is how it happened to me.
One day a lady who lived in Eureka Springs visited the community. She was a frequent visitor, very attractive (“monk” and “blind” are not synonyms) and just a few years older than me. One day after lunch in the dinning commons, she said to me, “You know Jim, you’re a handsome man, and I’m a good-looking lady myself. I think we’d make a beautiful baby together. Think about it.” At that, she stood up and left the dining commons, and she almost took my virginity with her.
In case you missed it, that is what we call in holiness circles TEMPTATION, spelled with a capital “T.” Another word that starts with “T” is “Thinkaboutit.” And I did. For about a week.
You know, an offer like that doesn’t come around every day. As a man, I’m used to making the first move and hoping I don’t get rejected. There was no fear of rejection here.
So I thought about it. And the more I thought about it, the more I thought that thinking about it was a good thing. In fact, I played that scenario from every possible angle. Where would we do it? In my hermitage? At her place? At a hotel? How could we hide it from others in the community? Could I sneak her into the brother’s area and sneak her out again? Should I wait until John and Viola are away on ministry? Will it be a one-time event that would leave me yearning for more, a kind of “Wham, bam, thank-you monk?” Or, would we continue to have sex until we got caught? However, when it came to sex, I knew that fifty times wouldn’t be enough and once would be too much.
And I also knew we’d get caught.
And I knew I’d hate that.
And I knew I didn’t want kids yet.
And I knew I wasn’t going to do it.
You see, this time I didn’t choose to simply say “No.” Ignoring the offer would not lead to bliss. I consciously and aggressively played out that scene from every possible angle, and only after giving it my best consideration could I give it my most thorough answer and never regret my decision.
Someone once said that opportunity knocks, but temptation breaks down the door. The temptation to accept her offer would have continued to haunt me if I had simply tried to ignore it. By opening the door, playing it out and examining it from every possible angle, I exercised it to death and she was never again a temptation. I discovered that my ability to remain chaste was not the result of simply ignoring the God-given gift of sexuality and pretending the hopes, dreams and desires of sexual union would simply go away because I made a three-year commitment to chastity. Instead, it was a conscious decision that involved the whole of me. Because that’s what temptation involves: the whole of me. I’ve used this technique in other areas of my life with similar results.
So, whatever happened to the woman who made me the offer? We actually went out a few times after I left the monastery. However, since I made the decision to remain true to God, both before and after my monastic vow of chastity was complete, and she was never a temptation to me again.