Several years ago, I worked with a woman who I first met back in high school. I remembered her clearly because I was so attracted to her back then. I'd always thought she was nice, smart, funny, and very easy on the eyes. I was happy she was coming to see me all these years later, and knew that at least part of my happiness was the personal pleasure of getting to reconnect with someone I once (and still) found attractive.
I could've shamed myself for feeling this way as a married, Christian man. Worse yet, I could've refused to see her.
Instead, I allowed my experience to be consecrated. While completely protecting her confidentiality, I discussed my feelings about seeing her with my wife and asked for her prayers. I'm fortunate to be married to a woman who recognizes that my willingness to discuss this with her is itself evidence of my trustworthiness.
I discussed things similarly with my counseling mentor, a licensed professional with 30 years experience, and had some straight-talk with him about how I felt. I didn't hide anything, and he didn't shame me.
All of this helped orient me to the task of remaining faithful to the call to minister the Good News. Be ye attracted, and sin not.
As a result, I used my regard for her to move toward her emotionally and spiritually in therapeutically appropriate ways. To the direct extent that she was attracted to me as well, that reality afforded me an extra measure of influence with her, in the same way we give voice to those we're otherwise attracted - movie stars, athletes, scholars, etc. We might not like admitting this, but research has proven it over and over, as has our penchant for listening to celebrities wax eloquent about this thing or that. As for me, I treasured her deference, and strove to act in a manner worthy of it.
More directly, I was able to call upon my attraction toward her as part of our therapeutic process. Once, when remarking on her desire to be safe and "unnoticed", a tendency that had not paid off for her in her marriage, I recollected about when I first "noticed" her in high school, painting a picture of the qualities in her I admired as both a female and a person (imagine that!). In so doing, I hoped to affirm her in the same sense I suspect Jesus Christ affirmed the woman with the issue of blood, the woman who anointed his feet, and countless others we know and don't know about. He noticed them, and in a way that no one else could, in that he saw them completely. So, I let my client know that I noticed her in this same way, in the hopes she might allow herself to be more noticed in her marriage, to the end it might produce a more satisfying and lasting bond.
Seems simple, I suppose.
Later, when she and I talked through all of this, I even brought up why she'd come to see me at all, having been aware of the attraction between us. What did that mean for her? Her marriage? Her relationship to God? To me? I believe these are more significant questions like those to which Yalom referred, and the kind Jesus asked so masterfully of men and women throughout the gospels.
But I could never have asked them, she could never have explored them, if:
I'd refused to see her simply because she was a woman.
I'd presupposed she was there to seduce me, and that it was inevitable I'd acquiesce.
I'd had seen her as a mere object of my affection.
I'd been unfamiliar, unwilling, or unable to investigate and understand my inner world.
I'd minimized the complexity in our interactions, or lacked a practical approach to work creatively with them.
In advocating for men in Christian leadership to work with women, none of what I've suggested here is meant to imply that men and women ought to be naïve, or ought not to take care to ensure the nature of their relationships is appropriate. Obviously, there are many examples of both men and women who have used their ministerial positions to transgress the boundaries of someone entrusted to their care, and of those who've solicited the help of ministers and counselors with ulterior motives.
And it isn't as though I'm suggesting there are no relevant external measures we ought to take when men and women work together one on one. My approach included the creation of structures - the insurance policies I took out by discussing my feelings with my wife and my mentor to start. But it's important to note that these structures were motivated by love, not fear. They allowed me to work creatively with my experiences, and to bring them out from the curse and under the blessing, ultimately to a place of consecration.
Writing about this subject is difficult and somewhat frightening. It's remarkable to read the diversity of opinions on this subject matter.
My thoughts on owning and being mindful of my experiences may seem like nonsense to a Christian community so accustomed to a misguided form of "denying the flesh." To some of them, this may all seem like an elaborate justification for my personal counseling methods, or playful dancing with the Devil.
I don't suppose there is any way to avoid this criticism. Even Jesus was accused of being in cahoots with Beelzebub.
The truth is, Jesus was in total alignment with the Father. He did nothing of his own accord and only what he saw the Father doing. Jesus ministered to women one on one, saw them completely and completely human, without assumption. He was fully conscious of his own responses, able to consecrate them without shame, avoidance, or control.
Shouldn't we do the same?
It is post 3 of 3 entitled Consecrated Sexual Attraction.