Seeing The Truth in Temptations
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Carolyn WeberA Commonwealth Scholar, Dr. Carolyn Weber holds her B.A. Hon. from Huron College at Western University, Canada and her M.Phil. and D.Phil. from Oxford University, England. Dr. Weber is an award-winning author, popular professor and international speaker with talks ranging from campuses world-wide to Billy Graham’s Cove and 100 Huntley Street. She has given numerous radio, television and podcast interviews on the intersection of faith and literature, as well as topics related to women and faith...more
Sexual temptation is everywhere! As believers, what do we do? Dave and Ann Wilson talk with Carolyn Weber, about seeing the battle for purity with new eyes.
Seeing The Truth in Temptations
Bob: As a university student at Oxford, Carolyn Weber wasn’t really spending a lot of time thinking carefully about many of her life choices. She says she was just kind of going along with the cultural flow.
Carolyn: I wasn’t really, really promiscuous; and I wasn’t dating all over the place. I was just sort of midstream in many things; I get this with students I even talk with now. They’ll say so many of the same things to me—Christian or non-Christian/secular campus or Christian campus—where “I had this one night stand,” or “I’ve had this relationship that’s fallen apart.” They identify this longing, but there’s just not really anything to slot it into—like Pascale said—that “God-shaped void that we all have.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, December 18th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. We’ll talk today with Carolyn Weber about the longings that Jesus came to satisfy. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I wonder if other husbands or wives have felt, as I have felt on occasion; maybe, you’ve felt this way.
Dave: I don’t know, Bob; you haven’t told me what we’re talking about yet. [Laughter]
Bob: I wonder if folks have ever felt like, in the midst of marital conflict, somehow you are no longer obligated to be faithful to your spouse. I just wonder how the enemy uses conflict in our lives and in our marriages—
Dave: And you want us to actually answer that?
Ann: I was going to say, “Why don’t you tell us about that, Bob?” [Laughter]
Dave: That’s a pretty deep one.
Bob: What I’ve said is—I’ve had that impulse—I have to think that’s an impulse that is one of those whispers that we hear in our ear from the enemy—
Dave: Oh, yes.
Bob: —how he uses conflict to try to sow seeds in a marriage.
Ann: I think the secret is identifying the whisperer—
Ann: —as the enemy, because we don’t always think that.
Bob: The reason I bring this up is we have a friend, who is joining us on FamilyLife Today, Carolyn Weber. Carolyn, welcome back.
Carolyn: Thank you, again, for having me.
Dave: Carolyn’s thinking, “Please don’t ask me that question, Bob.” [Laughter]
Bob: The reason I kind of leaned into that question is because we’re talking, this week, about a book that you’ve written called Sex and the City of God. You were pretty transparent; this is a memoir—where you’re talking about your views on relationships and on sexuality—how you viewed it before you came to Christ, how that shifted after you came to Christ, and how that has influenced your marriage relationship.
You talk a lot about your dad in this book and about your relationship with him. But you tell a story here about a conflict in your marriage—a time when you and Kent had had an argument—and you found yourself separated from him—not legally separated—you were off for a few days to do some writing. There was a flash of temptation that came at you in that moment; wasn’t there?
Carolyn: Yes; absolutely. I think what Ann was saying about thoughts—you know?—thoughts are where sins start/the freewill of our thoughts.
I did not grow up with fellowship, and I think fellowship is so important. I actually was really hesitant and wary of it—kind of like C.S. Lewis—you know, I like church; but I don’t like going to church and people at church. [Laughter] My life has been really changed by fellowship, by realizing that my husband can’t be everything to me; and I can’t be everything to him—that is God’s job; only God can do that—but also, that my fellowship with other believers can sustain me in that walk.
This is, again, why I love Jesus people—why I love sitting with all of/with you guys, too—is that you can go deep, and you can go shallow with people in the Lord. You can talk about the things that really matter and the things that are really hurtful, or painful, or difficult. You can also laugh about the lighthearted things and the joy. To have that kind of safety with anyone: you can be deeper with somebody in an elevator, who knows Christ, in a few minutes than you can be with someone you’ve known your whole life.
Bob: Tell our listeners the story of what happened—I don’t know if you even remember what the source of the conflict was—but tell them about this time when you were at the cabin at the lake, and you and Kent had not been getting along.
Carolyn: That’s why I brought up fellowship, because I was feeling very lonely in my marriage; and I’m sure Kent would say the same thing. We all do, at times, feel lonely in relationship; and even with our relationship with God, we can feel that way in consolation and desolation.
I think it was a combination for us, personally, of probably sleep deprivation—you know, when you’ve had four children under six and that sort of thing—and the things that everybody goes through in life. There are highs and lows in every marriage, and I think there are struggles of all different types. I’d been through a serious illness. We’d had a very difficult situation, in which our family was actually facing a crime that had happened. There was some really dark, dark stuff that we were under pressure for.
This happens in different ways to all of us—where, really, we should be coming closer together and seeking each other even more so, as that kind of mini-covenant—a lot of times, we push apart because of anger/because of fear. When you are in a lot of pain, especially in a relationship, it’s hard to have conversation. It’s hard to share those emotions, and it’s hard to really practice holy listening. We want to do a lot of talking; we want to do a lot of yelling; we want to do a lot of judging; but we don’t want to do a lot of holy listening.
I was at a place, where I just actually stepped away to do some work, but also just some quiet. A lot of things can happen in that space when we’re really, really vulnerable. Again, it goes back to the Garden of Eden; right? We are most likely to be attacked when we are alone.
Carolyn: There is a lot to be said, even out of obedience, of surrounding yourself with others in Christ or, at least, be in touch with them, or in prayer with them, or whatever at times when you feel threadbare. I was in a situation, where a temptation was particularly tempting, because I wanted connection and relationship more than anything; but again, like any other temptation, it’s just an illusion.
Bob: You’ve found yourself just a short distance from where your ex-fiancé might have been staying. You saw his pickup truck outside the home. You’re away on your own; and the thought pops into your mind, “Maybe, I’ll go knock on the door and just say, ‘Hi.’”
Carolyn: Yes; that old thought: “Oh, nothing serious,” “Oh, I’m not really looking for anything,” “Oh, I just…”—the old “the grass is always greener”—“You know, I might just go say, ‘Hello’; or see what could have been; or say, ‘Hi’; or whatever else. Those kind of thoughts come from a place of really not being—not only not being obedient—but not being held up in the faith by others when you can’t do it or you feel like your well is low. I shared, too—how, really, in a Holy Spirit way—others do come to your aid in that sense or, especially, if you can’t always turn to prayer/pray it through.
I think it doesn’t always have to be where something is really, really in a horrible state for it to be where it’s corroding you. Water wears down rock as well. Sometimes, just that sort of discontent or that way of not wanting to turn to God to fulfill those needs, can start to really wear at you in whatever relationship.
I guess it was the old metaphor: “I’m just going to go knock and see what…”—how I can feel that need, but it was the wrong kind of knocking.
Bob: What kept you from knocking on the door?
Carolyn: Two things: I would say grace—[Laughter]—is a big one. I think we have no idea the warfare done on our behalf.
Carolyn: We have no idea the constant warfare.
Carolyn: We just take it for granted.
I also think that, again, I had sisters in Christ that I’ve always been amazed at their connection with me. When I text them and say, “You know what? That was exactly what I needed right now.” “Oh, sure! I was just thinking of you; you were on my heart,”—you know—“I was praying for you,” or “You were on my heart,” or whatever.
I think it was those two things, and then really a recognition of the fact that God loves my husband as much as He loves me; and that we have been put together for a reason; and that the things that I am dealing with in my own heart, actually, really have nothing to do with him—they are between me and God.
Dave: I think, you know, one of my favorite authors has said, “Every time a person is tempted, there is a lot at stake.” I don’t think we often think there is a lot at stake. He says, “Your faith is at stake; your family; and your future.” That’s really true. Sometimes—and you talk about this in the book—it’s like, “What’s God’s perspective on love, sex, and relationships?” There is a lot at stake.
You know—I’ll share quickly—but I had a knock on my door, talking about the knock. When Ann and I were dating—I’m a brand-new Christian—this is the first time I’ve ever been in a God-centered, Jesus-foundation relationship; right? My old girlfriend knocks on my house. We had dated for four years; I’m going to marry her—she’s the one. Long story short, we broke up because of me finding Christ and her not—similar to your story, Carolyn—so I leave her and move on. This is six or seven months later; she knocks on my door, out of nowhere, and says, “I made the biggest mistake of my life; I want you back.”
I’m a brand-new person now; I’m just looking at her at the front door. She’s like, “Can we talk?” I’m thinking, “No! No!”; you know? [Laughter] But here is what’s amazing—I get in the car, and I drive with her—it’s really interesting, Bob, because we ended up at the football stadium, where I play college football, and just pulled in the parking lot. No one is there, and we’re talking. She’s basically trying to convince me, “We should get back together.”
I’m falling in love with Ann; our relationship is about Christ. I’m on an amazing journey. My faith has never been stronger—a lot of it because of the relationship I had with Ann—so I look at her, and I have this choice. I’m thinking, “Wow; I used to love her, maybe?”—as I’m looking at her. Again, I have no thought in my head that: “The stakes are high right now,”—no thought of that—“Your family, your future, your faith is at stake.” None of that was in my mind; all I knew was: “I have a choice to make.”
I can take you to that parking spot; because it was a significant moment when I go, “You know what? We’re done. I’m a new person in Christ; I have a new future. I have a whole new purpose in my life, and I don’t know if I am going to marry Ann or not; but she is going where I am going, and I’m going to keep pursuing that. I’m sorry to say this, but we’re done. I don’t know if I will ever talk to you again the rest of our lives.” I drove back to my house, and she got in her car and drove away; and I’ve never talked to her the rest of my life.
But here is the interesting thing—three or four years ago, I’m back at the university for an alumni football team golf outing, of all things—my son is with me/my youngest son. I said, “Hey, let’s go over to the stadium,”—because he is playing college football—“You’re going to play in the stadium, where I played.” As we pull into that parking lot, what hits me?
Bob: —that memory.
Dave: “There is the parking spot!”
Dave: I pull up with Cody, and I tell him this story. Now, when he’s preaching at my church, he goes, “My dad told me this story that would have changed everything if he had made a different decision.” I thought, “Wow; your faith, your family, your future really are at stake.”
Carolyn, your whole life is what it is now because of this choice you made and that knock.
Dave: I’m just thinking/the listener that is listening right now: “Just don’t underestimate this. I know you’re being tempted; we all are. There are moments that are so significant: Don’t forget. It’s that critical; you make the right choice.’”
Ann: They may be saying, “But you don’t know who I am married to.
Ann: “You don’t know what I’m not getting in my marriage.” That’s probably true that we could all say that in some respect, but you don’t know what God has in store for you. There is always hope for us in our relationship with Him.
Carolyn: Absolutely; and our bodies are not our own; and other people’s bodies—we have to be respectful of those.
I was thinking of your story, Dave, where you, not only protected your heart, but also that heart of that former girlfriend. You never know in what way, shape, or form it might speak to you. I remember that really spoke to me when I first met Kent, because he didn’t make a pass at me. He didn’t make a move on me or whatever, not as—because he will laugh and joke—he wasn’t “holier than thou”; but you know, it really spoke to me—and not in some sort of cheesy talk of purity and everything else—but actually, in this way of respect for this other person as well.
If you had just gone to the parking lot with her, yes, that would have changed all of your future decisions and path, and your relationship with your children, and everything else; but also, you don’t know the effect on her as well. It might have really dismantled her opportunity to really understand and recognize an example of the faith or the respect towards her own spirit and body as well. We are in relationship with others.
Bob: Carolyn, there is one other story you tell in the book that I just have to have you comment on; because as I was reading it, I was thinking, “This sounds like a Nicholas Sparks’ book”—you know?—it’s the kiss. [Laughter]
Dave: I mean, the way you describe it. I have never heard of a kiss—I’m like, “This must be the most amazing—
Bob: —“kiss ever.”
Dave: —“kiss ever in the history of the world!”
Bob: This is the first time Kent kissed you, and it was a while after you wished he had kissed you. You’d been wanting—
Carolyn: Oh, yes.
Bob: —him to kiss you for a while.
Carolyn: He took forever. [Laughter]
Ann: Well, you don’t even say his name. In most of the book, you call him TDH. Tell us about that.
Carolyn: —which mortifies him. [Laughter]
Bob: TDH stands for Tall, Dark, and Handsome; right?
Carolyn: Tall, Dark, and Handsome—it’s what all my friends called him at Oxford, too—that—and “Theology Guy.”
Dave: So were his lips warm? [Laughter] I mean, what in the world happened?
Carolyn: I will tell you—it just takes one—and it is worth the wait. [Laughter]
Bob: What was the setting? Where did the kiss happen? Were you instantly transformed? [Laughter]
Carolyn: Well, I think God gives you certain memories in your marriage to keep you going at times; right?—so, “Take this and remember me for good reason”; right? Yes; it was in my college/at my college, when I was a dean. I had invited him for guest night dinner. It was a very beautiful black tie affair. At that point, we had known each other for a long time; and neither of us were seeing anybody. It was that sort of thing—we had had this long-standing deep friendship—and it had grown a little more serious, where he had visited a few more times.
Yes, we knew it was getting serious; and we knew that we were both committed Christians. I had this time where, actually, I knew he was something special, years before; but I was really gifted with the time in which to grow in my own faith. We were actually physically separated for quite some time; I never thought I was going to see him again. So when it picked up, it did get serious fast. Then he kissed me after that guest night dinner, and it was incredible.
Bob: He shows up with the tuxedo on—
Bob: —and with a rose for you, and you have the dinner. Then were you out, walking, after dinner?—is that what it was?
Carolyn: No; we had gone back upstairs in the college. I had this beautiful office and set of rooms upstairs in a turret, which you can only have in a place like Oxford. It’s just crazy over-the-top what your bedroom and office nook looks like. He kissed me up there; it was very princess like. It was literally the top of a turret. [Laughter] God is such a show off; because you know, I kicked against all that stuff forever; but it was really very fairytale like, even in terms of the setting.
I really admired that he didn’t toy with me or take advantage of me when I was searching for the faith, and asking questions, and had broken up [with someone else], and had been in a very emotional, vulnerable position. He really waited until he was very, very sure; because he said he knew that there would be a responsibility with that, at least, in good faith; right? He remembered his father always saying to him, “You know, you’re going to have these temptations—and you are a guy; and that’s really, really normal—but really, think of the girl’s heart too. Really, think of how you are respecting her in this situation.”
I believe that with my whole heart. I think that we are all made in the reflection of God, and we have to respect that innate dignity. One of those ways is not to be thinking about: “Hey, I want to kiss this woman!” Think about: “What’s the effect if you do?” “What are the consequences if you do, for her, as well?” He had really carefully thought that out. It was: “Wow! It was good.” [Laughter] I can see why He declared it good! [Laughter]
Bob: This is so much at what is at the heart of your book—is the idea that, when we think about relationships, and when we think about sexuality, and when we think about how we’re interacting with others, we can’t just be thinking about: “What am I getting out of this?” or “What’s my desire?” or “How do I benefit from this?” We really have to care for the other people we’re relating to and have their best interests at heart in order to be doing what Jesus is calling us to do.
Dave: Yes; one of the things that struck me, as I read your book—and by the way, I couldn’t put it down.
Dave: When I started reading from Page 1, I turned to Ann and said, “Oh my goodness! You’ve got to read this book. It’s just so—
Ann: — “it’s compelling.”
Carolyn: Thank you.
Dave: It’s so beautifully written too. I want to read a paragraph—but I’m not going to do that—but here/here’s what really struck me—and I don’t even know if this was part of your goal in the book—but I was really struck with how beautifully Kent treated you—
Dave: —as you dated—even what you described: the kiss was so magnificent, because of the way you were treated by him as a precious jewel/valued.
Ann: He cared for your heart.
Dave: Yes; as a husband now—I hope every man that would read it would be challenged to think, “Am I treating my bride”—married one year or married forty—“like that?” because that’s the love of God. He—you were precious; I’m guessing you still are.
I know marriage is hard—you’ve got kids and all that—but you’re precious, and he modeled for us the love of God. I’m sure you did that back as well; but I really caught that, as a man, reading the book, like, “I want to treat Ann that way: after 40 years, she should not feel any less than she did when we were engaged.” That was such a beautiful picture of the heart and love of God.
Carolyn: Well, thank you for sharing that; because I did write it from a very deep place over a long period of time. I didn’t mean for the title to be salacious at all. If you told me I was going to write a book with the word, “sex,” in it, I never would have guessed that, as a literature professor and homeschooling mom; you know? [Laughter]
But I was beginning to think, “What do I want to tell my own children?”—that’s exactly—thinking about what to tell my sons/thinking about what to tell my daughter. In high school, they are not sending them home with any relational information/with any sense of how you are treating somebody because you believe they are/fully believe they are precious and, also, looking at how incredibly beautiful marriage is as this mini-covenant.
We all get battle-weary; we all get tired; and the world comes at us. We’re always so busy; and we have a million needs—as parents and sandwich generations, too, caring for the elderly and for our children—so many things can come at us and so many temptations and issues. But really working to protect that precious is so important—that sort of sacred space between the two of you—is really, really important. I would say that that’s really what spoke to me.
That, also really/it really spoke to my faith. I think we are, also, there to bolster each other’s faith in marriage and help each other on our journey. We’re not responsible for each other that way; ultimately, that’s with God; but that authenticity of seeing someone try to model that out and try to live that; and the decisions might not always be right or perfect. Even when there is tension or disagreement, there is a willingness to have conversation; there is a willingness to remember that that person is precious—is everything.
Bob: Yes; Carolyn, thank you for the book; thanks for the conversation. Tell Kent we said, “Hi.”
Carolyn: I will; thank you.
Bob: I hope his kiss today is just as nice as the first one. [Laughter]
Carolyn: Well, we have a lot more viewers now in terms of the kids—[Laughter]—a house of seven—so it’s not real easy to have an intimate kiss; but you know, I’ll tell him that; and we’ll go for it. [Laughter] I’ll say you guys recommend it. Thank you! [Laughter]
Bob: Absolutely; let me encourage listeners to get a copy of the book we’ve been talking about. It’s Carolyn Weber’s book, Sex and the City of God: A Memoir of Love and Longing. We’ve got it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy. Again, the title of the book is Sex and the City of God by Carolyn Weber. Order online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request your copy of Carolyn’s book.
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We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend, however your church is meeting. I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about the challenges blended families face during the holiday season. Ron Deal, the head of FamilyLife Blended®, will join us, along with some special guests to have that conversation. I hope you can join us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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