Voices

Nothing more than feelings?

Feelings are fickle and fleeting, but Covenant is faithful and lasting

Issue: "2004 Election: GOP's encore," Aug. 28, 2004

The heart is not naturally monogamous.

This is the empirical finding of a slightly shopworn middle-aged pilgrim. Among my closest friends are women who are prayer warriors, doers of good deeds, devoted to their husbands-and whose hearts have been drawn anon to another man, to one who stirred some part of themselves (perhaps an aesthetic temperament) not touched in marriage. It is possible that I need to find better friends. Or perhaps I have merely outgrown fairy tales.

Not much you can do about feelings, I suppose. To be sure, people do things about them all the time: obsess, have affairs, divorce. Some who engage in such remedies have concluded that marriage is a fundamentally flawed concept because it fetters the heart, forcing unnatural impediments. Tarry a while and you will find those philosophers on a street corner panhandling for pocket change with a tin cup, or swelling the welfare rolls as single parents-or tendering resignations, as New Jersey Gov. McGreevey did on Aug. 12. That is the end of that road.

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Gay feelings, straight feelings. Makes no difference, feelings are feelings. I have never met a feeling that wouldn't be a god if you let it. But here is no enduring stuff on which to build a life. Speaking of Eros, C.S. Lewis once said, "She herself is a mocking, mischievous spirit, far more elf than deity, and makes game of us" (The Four Loves). He goes on to counsel that "even for their own sakes the loves must submit to be second things if they are to remain the things they want to be. In this yoke lies their true freedom." This advice is worth heeding because "left to themselves [feelings] either vanish or become demons."

Enter the usefulness of Covenant.

How does a godly woman keep her way? She takes her feelings to Scripture to have them named. She finds there a framework for her experience: Some yearnings are blessed and others censured. She encounters the ancient phenomenon of Covenant, an insight as deep as the dawn of creation and in accord with reality. It takes into account a fact of human existence that fools ignore to their peril-that life is lived out in the matrix of time, in a succession of moments. And therefore, living is marked by inconstancy of feelings, feelings that would threaten to pull asunder by centrifugal force if not brought into submission to a higher rule. The woman now sees her impulses in the light of new possibilities: Not all feelings are friends.

In the same Scriptures she finds remedies. What do you do to rob the oxygen of an illicit ardor? You pray for the man (let's say it is a man) you are attracted to. You pray for his sanctification. You pray for his wife! (This, friends, is a real non-starter for romantic adventurism.) Rather than stoking ungodly feelings till they crescendo to a convincing claim of defining your essence, the tempted woman "sues for grace" (as the Puritans used to say), until the impulses threatening her very soul abate.

Job said, "I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?" (Job 31:1). The godly woman likewise makes covenant to treat younger men like brothers, older men like fathers, in all purity (1 Timothy 5:1-2)-which is doable because God Himself keeps covenant. "I will henceforth practice thinking of Mr. X as my blood sibling" she determines, by God's grace. The homosexually inclined man who wants to seek the Lord covenants likewise: "I will henceforth think of Mr. X as my brother."

The struggler with biblically forbidden affections is thereby greatly helped. Now she has something to "put on" as she has had to "put off" unholy things. And in contrast to the world around her where increasingly "the people cast off restraint" (Proverbs 29:18), and mock covenant, she comes to see that Covenant is not the problem; it is the solution. Where feelings were fickle tyrants, Covenant is a gentle yoke and dependable master, leading her to safe harbors.

Life handed Gov. McGreevey a choice between feelings and covenant, and he went with feelings. The twice-married man chucked his marriage, his governorship, and his life for a tryst with a male aide, declaring, "I am a gay American." Some are calling him "courageous."

As for me and my circle of lady friends, however, because life is not tidy, we hold each other's feet to the Covenant. It tides us over the thin patches of feelings, till the day we all come to full sight. We rejoice in covenants at the marriage altar, and those by which we bind ourselves to God, and the one by which our Covenant Lord has bound Himself to us.

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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