It would be an understatement to say that we live in a sex-saturated society. It would also be an understatement to say that we live in a culture that is at war with marriage. Temptations abound all around us. Whether it is sexual temptation, the temptation to be deceitful, the temptation to be selfish, or whatever else, Satan is constantly working to undermine and destroy marriage.
Temptation takes an infinite number of forms. It is ever present, and what is tempting for you might not be tempting for your spouse, or for another couple. So, if a countless number of things are constantly flying around trying to attack our marriages, what can we do?
A few years ago, a friend made the following observation: “You can’t stop the birds from flying overhead, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.” While I’m sure that saying is not original to him, the point is well-taken. We can’t stop the temptations from arising. There’s always going to be a Hooters billboard alongside the interstate, or a Victoria’s Secret commercial on TV, or access to things on the internet that will be harmful to a healthy marriage. There will always be temptations to not tell the whole story and think, “what he/she doesn’t know won’t hurt,” when we know that it really will. There will always be temptations to manipulate, coerce, or otherwise get our own way, even if it means putting self before our marriages. But being surrounded by temptations is radically different from letting temptation take up residence in your heart and mind.
You can’t stop the birds from flying overhead. But there certainly are some warning signs when the birds are trying to build a nest in your hair.
- First, if it is something you feel compelled to keep a secret from your spouse, you are creating and facilitating an environment for temptation to live and grow. “You don’t need to know my password for Facebook.” “Please don’t tell my wife we had this lunch together.”
- Second, if you think through how you would explain/rationalize/justify the behavior, before you do something, then you are creating a path for temptation to find a home in your heart. “If she comes in, I’ll say I accidentally hit a link that I didn’t mean to.” “If he notices money missing from the bank account, I’ll blame it on a bank error, until I can figure out a way to explain it.”
- Third, if you spend inordinate amounts of time and energy to convince yourself that the behavior is not that bad, temptation is taking root. “What’s her problem? Everybody does it. What’s the big deal?” “Why is he so upset? I could be doing stuff a whole lot worse than this.”
- Fourth, if you become so comfortable with the temptation that you no longer even notice it, the birds have begun to build. “I didn’t lie. Why would you say that?” “I’m not ‘being hateful.’ You just don’t care about me.”