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In my work as an educator in the realms of marriage, family, and human sexuality, I’m sometimes asked to offer marriage preparation to young couples. It’s a gift to see them so excited about the road ahead. The often overwhelming details of the actual day, however, can stir up some real anxiety. So to keep them grounded (a wedding is a day; a marriage is a lifetime), I asked a young couple the other day “Why do you want to get married?” Companionship, sharing a life, and building a family, were included in their answers. 

And then came the zinger that’s going to shape the direction of this article. “To help each other get to Heaven.” Yesssss. Now I know that’s been said before, especially taught in Bible studies, small groups, and lessons from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But coming from this iGen couple in their early twenties, it came as a breath of fresh air. That’s some mature love right there! “To help each other get to Heaven!”

Pope Saint John Paul II once wrote that mature love arrives the moment we stop saying “You’re good for me” and we start saying “I want what’s good for you.” In other words, I want you to get to Heaven. I want you, the person I love, to arrive at the Source of Love. I want you to be happy in the most holistic way possible. I want to be your “helper” (not your savior) in this great work of becoming fully alive. The Hebrew word for helper, ezer, was first used to describe the relationship between the first man and woman by the way! It stands for every man and woman who unite in marriage. And from them, I want to propose that it must flow to their children. 

Real love in relationships means that we’re helping each other to Heaven. Anything else is a fake, or worse, a distraction that can lead us in the opposite direction. Fake love takes us away from Heaven. The fake love we see parading itself around in porn takes us away from Heaven. And I don’t mean just the objective Heaven in the end, our “eternal reward.” I mean even now, porn pulls us away from the real and raw and beautiful relationships the Lord wants us to engage in and experience.

Porn closes the doors on the daring adventure of looking another human in the eyes and listening to and loving them for themselves. Porn is the great inhibitor of one’s call out of self and into the other. It keeps us in lockdown and isolation from the very real people through whom God wants to reveal Himself to us. And I think we’ve all had quite enough of lockdowns and isolation at this point.

I think we need a little C.S. Lewis to pound this powerful truth into our hearts:

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - These are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory)

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations…

What a sobering thought. What an amazing vocation! But for those of us still caught in the nettles of time and space in a fallen world, we’ll need a guide to help us see the path and to navigate this path towards Real Love. How can we discern real love from lust, especially in a pornified and hyper-sexualized culture like ours? How can we help our children, as well as ourselves, to know the difference between grasping and giving? This is a task we must take up if our immortal souls are on the line! 

“Only a true love is able to protect life. There can be no avoiding the duty to offer, especially to adolescents and young adults, an authentic education in sexuality and in love, an education which involves training in chastity as a virtue which fosters personal maturity…” (Saint Pope John Paul II, EV 97)

Now for this essential and total human education in love, we’re going to need to get existential. No matter how often or how quickly our technology changes in the modern world (which seems to be every five minutes), some things never change. Our human nature, for instance, is exactly the same as it was in the beginning. Every person in the world finds themselves asking at some point or another, deep existential questions. Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?

These existential questions cannot be answered through purely scientific explanations. We can offer some biological, reductionistic answers to these questions. But they will cause us to become even more restless. Why? Because the human being is fundamentally a religious being. That means we are in the world but not completely of the world. Think about it. There’s no other creature that we know of in the entire visible universe that wonders, reflects, questions, laughs at jokes, weeps, and steps outside of time even—dipping into memories that bring sweet tears or longing for a future that’s full of love and everlasting. 

Once again, the famous C.S. Lewis said it well, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity). 

It is absolutely essential that we as adults ponder the answers to these questions and that we as adults be ready to articulate to our children the answers to these fundamental questions.

Who am I?

You are an amazing marriage of body and soul, spirit and matter, gathered up from the dust of the earth with precision and patience over millennia, and then just at the right moment your humanity was kissed by Divinity and breathed into with the breath of God! 

We are a body/soul composite, glorious, sacred, the pinnacle of all creation, and a participant in the divine nature! This is who we are. We give voice to the entire created cosmos, standing on the rooftops of the world singing “Glory to God in the highest.” All that can be seen, tasted, touched, and heard is lifted up by our hands in a song of praise and gratitude! Therefore the earth and all that is in it is holy, and we are stewards of it all.

Where did I come from?

We were made by Love, for Love, to make Love present in the visible universe. (If you’re wondering why I capitalized Love it’s because God is Love!) We came from the very heart of God. We came more concretely from a garden in which everything was declared to be good. 

And man and woman were declared to be very good. That superlative word is superb. It means that we are SO GOOD! We are embodied gifts, and so everyone should be treated as such. 

Why am I here?

We are not just a solitary creature set adrift into the universe to be a single voice, however. We were made to sing in harmony. We are a communion. From the very beginning in the garden, we were invited into a communion—to leave father and mother and be joined to another. 

We are a dance of masculinity and femininity; we are a complement to one another. The mission of this life is to get out of me and enter into the We. As a poet once said, “No man is an island.”

I hope you’re not tired of C.S. Lewis yet because here’s another gem: “After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little dark prison we are all born in…” (The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3). Love is the power that gets us off the ground and puts us into a selfless, other-centered orbit rather than remaining a selfish, gravitational pull on everyone else.

Where am I going?

Again, we were made by Love, for Love, to make Love present in the visible universe, and in the end, after a life of fruitful self-giving and receiving love, we will return to the source of Love.

Now back to the main thrust of this reflection. Mature love. Real love. We’ve got issues here on this side of Heaven. Just think about what pornography does to this trajectory of the human heart! It stops it in its tracks. Pornography doesn’t see through things like the sign of sexuality to the great dance of God‘s love for us and within himself as a Trinity of love. Porn slams the door on that divine knocking on the heart. It pulls down the shutters on all the signs that are meant to draw us out of the selfish little prison we’re stuck in. Porn reduces the wonder and majesty and beauty of the human body. It is what it is and no more. A stimulus for my physical satisfaction. Porn gives the pound of flesh we crave in this moment... that’s it. 

So the antidote to this stunted vision is learning how to see again. Learning how to see through the fakes, deceptions, and tricks that the Evil One uses to tie us down. He knows very well that the Lord put the holy fire of selfless love within us to propel us up and out and through the beautiful to Him Who Is Beauty. So the Devil seeks to distort, disorient, and disrupt the trajectory of love by turning it into lust, avarice, greed, grasping. And this pornification isn’t just for bodies that give us pleasure. Author James K.A. Smith observes: 

"The way to your heart is through your body.  And so the mall is this kind of liturgical experience... The mall is the cathedral of consumerism... The malls outreach, its evangelism, is marketing, which totally understands that we are not (primarily) thinking things... The mall doesn't want you to think, that's the last thing it wants you to do. It wants to draw you into an experience, a liturgy. It knows that we are lovers. That we have these hungers. What marketing holds up for us then is not information but an invitation into a story where there is some good or product or service that's finally going to give you the happiness that you have been longing for" (James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit).

We need good discernment; we need to question the desires of our hearts and the direction of our love. With the rightly ordered heart and the mindset on things above, we can arrive at the home of Love. We can help our spouses, and we can lead our children. We can find real love.

 

Resource
Love Versus Lust: A Guide to Discerning the Heart’s Desires

Love Versus Lust: A Guide to Discerning the Heart’s Desires

Description

In this illustration, Bill Donaghy depicts the two paths we walk and the choice we have to make between grasping and using or loving and giving. This is crucial for our journeys as adults, and it is important to teach our children as we form, protect, and guide them in a pornified and hypersexualized-culture.

Bill Donaghy is a senior lecturer and content specialist for the Theology of the Body Institute as well as a Certification Program instructor, and international speaker. He's worked in mission, evangelization, and education for nearly 25 years, with a background in visual arts, philosophy, and systematic theology. He teaches as an adjunct professor for Immaculata University as well as Homeschool Connections, teaching Catholic homeschoolers with live, interactive courses for primarily middle and high school age students. Bill is also the co-author with Chris Stefanick of the RISE: 30 Day Challenge for Men program at www.MenRiseUp.org and editor of the Strive21.com initiative with Matt Fradd. He and his wife, Rebecca, live just outside of Philadelphia, PA with their four children.