I look at women. It's a bad habit and I have to stop. I'm a woman myself, and this is not a lust thing, not in the common sense of the word. I cast surreptitious glances at my gender passing on the street to see where I fit in the hierarchy of being. I derive assurance from homeliness and terror from beauty. I grade on a curve. There, I'm as shallow as that.
When you don't have an internal sense of Self, you need an external-and a constant supply of it. You're condemned to roam the earth a parasite. The restless spirits of Matthew 12 go through waterless places and have no peace until they find a host. They do not exist apart from this.
If you tell me I am something, I am something. But you'd better say it every day, or at least once a week, because I've become a junkie for your praise, and my kingdom is in constant danger of overthrow. Your affirmation feeds my Self.
This is not different from what goes on in hell. The junior demon Wormwood, recipient of formally affectionate but vaguely disturbing correspondence, finally asks point blank if his Uncle loves him. "Love you?" comes the reply. "Why, yes. As dainty a morsel as I ever grew fat on." Screwtape's final communique, after the mission has gone badly, and the velvet glove is shed, is signed, "Your increasingly and ravenously affectionate uncle."
We are all in need of a Self, of being somebody with respect to an outside source of approval. It is not as if there are people who need to be affirmed and other people who don't. It's just a matter of which reference you elect to heed. No one is ultimate enough in himself to be his own final integration point.
In 1944 C.S. Lewis gave the Memorial Lecture at the University of London's King's College. Of all the charges he might have given the eager young scholars, he warned against desiring to be in "the inner ring." "I believe that in all men's lives at certain periods, and in many men's lives at all periods . . . , one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local ring and the terror of being left outside." Lewis adds, "Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life. . . . Any other kind of life, if you lead it, will be the result of conscious and continuous effort."
Or, failing your "conscious and continuous effort," the Lord, in His mercy, will send a storm into your life. Now when your lover leaves you, and you have a strong sense of your value in Christ, it hurts a lot. When your lover leaves you and you have a shaky sense of your value in Christ, you suffer identity destruction.
Jesus met a woman at the well who had had five husbands. I would guess she had Self issues. I would say she was a hollow in search of filling. Jesus wanted to fill her. He said, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water" (John 4:10).
Perhaps all lusts are corruptions of good desires. Before "sin, the flesh, and the devil" got a hold of us in Eden, we desired (and we had) sweet intimacy with the Lord-and because of that, with each other. His love, and the assurance of it, were the wellspring from which to bathe our neighbors in nurturing, the hub of a solid soul from which spokes of ministry and not manipulation emanated.
Intimacy is not a secondary agenda of the Incarnation and Passion of Christ. The salvation these wrought were a salvation into the sweet lovemaking of the eternal Trinity. Being somebody, being affirmed, delighted in, held in close embrace, are where reality began and where it all goes to.
Acceptance is tendered: "I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it" (Revelation 2:17). My soul, find yourself in Jesus and be free.