No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear---1 Corinthians 10:13
A friend who shall of course remain anonymous communicated something very powerful to me, and has given me permission to share it. He wrote:
"I want to share something in the light of what we talked about in the past---how long has it been!
Not very long ago, after having enjoyed another considerable period of few temptations like this, I was seized again by the fearful temptation. As you know, I am not married, and, as a man I have physical compulsions which sometimes unexpectedly overwhelm me. I know I need to find a good wife, but this has not been easy for me. While I am still young I did not for a long time know many women and still pray that the Lord will open the way, not just to gratify pleasurable sexual needs, but to have a companion, someone to love, and to be loved by for the rest of my life; a whole good person with a spiritual life.
But as I said, it happens sometimes that the stresses of work and daily life get to me. And then add loneliness to it and maybe out of the blue, or when I am watching a [good] movie and just the sight of a fair and beautiful female face can send me into a paroxysm of burning desire.
Stephen, in such times, especially in the past, it has been all I can do not to go out and hire a prostitute to take care of the sexual instinct. God at such times seems completely eclipsed by my desires which inflame me beyond all reason. In such times I try to pray, but I just cannot, beyond uttering maybe a feeble syllable or two.
I don't want to use anybody. In the past what has helped me is to think rationally of what I would be doing to the sad woman who is forced by drug addiction or financial needs. I would be exploiting her suffering, just as much as her pimp does; taking full advantage of her sickness or woes. Sometimes, it is true, I sinned in other ways. And so I went to Confession and renewed my determination to stand up again and not despair, as we talked about. Confession always brought me such comfort in the deepest sense; and so I made a firm amendment to progress.
But here is my point and the reason I write after so long a time. While I still have not found a wife (though there are now possible prospects unlike in the past, thank God for hope and please pray about this!) I discovered through time by experience a way to help me overcome the fierce, consuming temptations in such moments.
In those moments when I am all aflame, I have found a remedy which very often keeps me from using others or from masturbation. And that is to
and just let time pass. I distract myself, listen to music, take up a book, sometimes a spiritual book, sometimes not, or watch a movie not so filled with female images. I just let time pass and you know? When I wake up in the morning usually the fever has abated or almost, and I am greatly relieved in the positive sense.
Stephen, if this has worked for me very often now for a couple of years since we last corresponded (doing nothing and letting time pass), I know it can work for anyone; because my case was a bad one, less me assure you. Spiritual evolution takes time, but it seems to leave me stronger after such times of turmoil.
I know that many today who do not care about spiritual things will laugh at this, and tell me to get over it and just sate the physical temptation. But I don't want to use anybody or abuse the sacred gift myself. I want to move forward, to evolve more and more into the mind and consciousness of Christ as St. Paul says. You said my feeble lisps of prayer in such times were more powerful than many eloquent prayers in easier times. I think that may have been so... But I know the Lord has helped me and it can be done---and, when I think about it, with not too much effort--- and also with more of a sense of humor about it all. I used to take it so seriously; I turned it all into a grand melo-drama! Now I can visit or call a friend to chat about other things, take a walk, just go to bed, be amused by it more.
The Mind of Christ
As soon as I even begin to do something positive like that (not out of anxiety, but to do something different and not take it all so seriously) the imagination often abates very quickly, and then the physical tension very often follows quickly! And you know? I was amazed to read the desert fathers describe experiences very, very similar to mine. How interesting are their accounts!
Something deeper is happening within me; something I couldn't have imagined a couple of years ago. Onwards and upwards, Stephen!
--->The Priest: A Man for Others This notion was sometimes abused by liberals in the early days, but there is a beautiful alternative sense in which it is very true. When I was young I used to make an occasional "teen retreat" at a Center nearby. I knew there a priest who was truly "a man for others". Every day he would give himself to Mass, prayer, and listening to, consoling, and gently [but always truthfully] counseling others. At night when we were in our rooms I had occasion to see him through my window, often walking the trails of the woods in the back with his prayer rope (he was Melkite) for hours. His life was truly an oblation which both amazed and inspired me as I watched with my young eyes; and I used him in part as a model for "Fr. Joseph" in the story "Gifts Unxpected". To this day I cannot forget him. He incarnated Love.
"Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" ---Ps. 119:105