When the mind is at play, especially when there are no teachers, no rules, no fences in the mental playground, when the brain is free to do whatever tickles its fancy, we wander into that realm called fantasy. I don’t have to tell you to try it sometime; most of us do it every day, without even realizing it’s happening. Maybe on the drive to work. Maybe during a boring lecture. Maybe when our head hits the pillow. When there’s nothing we must think about, we are prone to think about what we like, what we fear, or what we desire.
I don’t have a woman’s mind, so I can’t speak for you ladies. But I have plenty of personal knowledge of what happens inside a brain that drives a body fueled with testosterone. For us—for me anyway, and I think for most men—our fantasy playground almost always has a bed as its central feature. What happens in that fantasy bed, and with whom it happens, varies from man to man. There are plenty of lists on the web for the top ten sexual fantasies of men, and I’m sure that Cosmo has devoted at least a gazillion recycled articles to this subject, so there’s no need to give you a string of examples. What is revealing is to take your own go-to fantasy and de-fantasize it. Ask yourself what that fantasy reveals about you, your view of sex, and, by extension, your belief about love. Your fantasy may be fantasy, but fantasies unearth real desires; and real desires direct the heart; and the heart, when it steers our life in certain directions, can easily drive us straight off the cliff of destruction.
Let me give you just one example, a very common example of a male sexual fantasy: the threesome. Contrary to appearances, contrary to what men may think they’re daydreaming about, this mini-orgy is not really about getting a double female portion to satiate the sexual appetite. What a man wants is not so much two women, but a twofold increase in his own perceived level of personal machismo. His penis is nothing but a tool with which he boosts his own ego. He feels sexier, stronger, more desirable.
Now what’s most revealing is that the threesome is not really about sex at all, at least, not sex as understood biblically, according to the will of the One who created sex. This is a man-becoming-god fantasy. It’s about the self, the male self, in a scenario in which he is the deity of his self-created brand of sex. What the true God made isn’t good enough for him. He wants not the two, but the three to become one flesh. He doesn’t want fidelity; he doesn’t want a lifelong, wedded union with one wife who is bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, and mother of their children. So he creates in his fantasy a new Eden in which he is the Lord of two Eves, who are crafted not from his rib but from his ego, made to serve his selfish desires.
Here is a fantasy that, when stripped of its seemingly overt sexuality, is but one more example of man’s ongoing attempt to break the first commandment in new, creative ways. “You shall have no other gods,” God says, and we, spurred on by the prohibition, roll up our sleeves and get to work fashioning gods like there’s no tomorrow. The mind is an idol-making machine, so the mind that fantasizes about sex is prone to make gods that are gilded with sensuality. Amongst the many dangers here, two come to mind. The most obvious is that God threatens to punish all who break His commandments. And His punishment is no fantasy; it is man’s worst nightmare.
The second danger is that the more man entertains sexual fantasies that denigrate the divine gift that sex actually is, the more prone he will be to make those daydreams into reality. Oh, he will kid himself into thinking, “Hey, all I’m doing is in my head. It’s fantasy. No harm in that.” But fantasies sprinkle salt into an already thirsty mouth. It’s only a matter of time before he decides he must take that drink, when what a man is doing in his head becomes what he’s doing in his bed. And if his fantasy, like so many of them, is nothing more than an idolatrous usurpation of sex to serve his own selfish cravings, then he will destroy his own soul and, if married, bring untold harm upon the woman whom he has sworn to love and cherish till death parts them.
There’s a verse from a hymn that I return to again and again in my own internal struggles with this:
If some lust in current fashion
Rises like a fiery flood,
Draw me to your cross and Passion,
Quench the fire, Lord, by your blood.
Lest I to the tempter yield,
Let me front him with the shield,
Thorn-crowned, blood-marked tree displaying,
Sign the devils find dismaying.
(“Grant, Lord Jesus, that My Healing” Lutheran Worship, 95).
While that “thorn-crowned, blood-marked tree” is indeed a shield against temptation, it is much more. It is the place where fantasy meets reality, where man comes eye-to-eye with true, real love. The kind of love that gives all, nothing held back. The kind of love that doesn’t even know what self-serving might mean for all it does is serve the other. This is God-love, pure love, the only real love in our whole wide world for it is pure, unadulterated, unfiltered. On that thorn-crowned, blood-marked tree God loved us out of our fantasies and into His reality; loved us out of sin and into salvation; loved us out of our rebellion and into His redemption.
In Jesus, baptized into Him, we become one flesh with God Himself. And in that union is true contentment, for there is no want. When we have God, we have all, for we have Him who is our everything. We have forgiveness for our sexually twisted minds, forgiveness for our sexually twisted acts, forgiveness full and free. And in its place, in that gap left by sin, there is the fullness of Christ, who inhabits our bodies even as we inhabit His, bone of each other’s bone, flesh of each other’s flesh. It is gift, all gift, from Him who rescues us from ourselves and remakes us in His image and likeness.
Better than any fantasy, better than any daydream, is the reality that I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.