When the spiritual sparks the sensual

I once had a secretary who could not be around popular music. Before she was a Christian she had spent a lot of time in unsavory places where the pop music played loud and long. It was the backdrop of her sensual sins. She explained that when she heard pop music she automatically found her sensual self rise within her and so she chose not to be around it. She had no problem with others enjoying the latest hits of the day, but, for her, they were off-limits. As I read chapter IV of Dark Night of the Soul by St John of the Cross, I was reminded of this precious woman in my life.

St John says that one of the ways beginning Christians fall into sin is through spiritual exercises that spawn sensual feelings. He warns that sometimes this occurs when someone is deep in prayer or even at the Eucharist. He says this connection between the spirit and the senses has three causes:

  1. Both the spirit and the flesh are found in one individual and the one naturally affects the other. When the spirit is pleased the pleasure is felt by the senses.
  2. The devil attacks most fiercely, and uses the flesh to accuse the worshiper mercilessly during acts of spiritual devotion. (I think of David’s wife’s disgust of his dancing before the Lord.)
  3. Christians who are frail and unsure of themselves gain bravado through association with those they deem to be spiritual to dissipate any fears they have that the spiritual motions they are involved in are impure.

Back in a July 8, 2011 post, I wrote this about a conversation I had with my son:

I had an opportunity to talk to him about worship and how church can be a special time with Jesus. I talked to him about how he could talk with Jesus about things just he and Jesus knew and have a special quiet time together. Later in his college years when we were at the altar praying together he said to me, “Mom, you really like this stuff, don’t you? You ‘get off’ on this.” He was referring to our time of worship and prayer. I simply said, “Yes, I do.” and we continued to pray.

Back then I would have seen this as positive instruction to my son, but having read Dark Night I wonder. Could the pleasure I had in worship and prayer have been the best? Was it leading me to shed dross or just leading me to a “good time”? I am still kicking this around because the concept is new to me, but I am leaning closer to thinking it was more of a “good time” than a deep cleansing and seeking.

Today at Multitudes on Monday I want to thank Him for

#491 His extreme patience with me.

#492 His gifts of spiritual sisters and brothers that keep me reflecting.

#493 His Holy Spirit who signals danger.

#494 His promise to never give me more than I can handle.

DH's grandmother, Lydia Kate and great-grandmother, Susanna Rebecca

#495 His strength for each moment.

#496 His cloud of witnesses behind, above, before and around me.

#497 His blood that never loses its power.

#498 His walk through the valley of the shadow of death so I know He can lead me through mine.

#499 His comfort for others as they comfort me and I, at the moment, can’t return the favor.

#500 the understanding of brothers and sisters in the Lord.

#501 the obedience of those whom God has appointed to help along the way. You are right there at the right time. Thank you!

#502 the perspective of time. Age does have its blessings.

Silver-haired and aging with His grace,


10 comments on “When the spiritual sparks the sensual

  1. Dear Dawn . . . I love your #497 . . . I watched the youtube video that you shared the link for the song :”The Blood Will Never Lose it’s Power”. I love watching the Gaither Gospel Hour videos and the show itself is often on Friday nights.

    Do not be concerned about reciprocating all the blessings of comfort and encouragement that come to you at this time. Some of it is reaping what you have sown and some of it you will use to comfort others with the same comfort you have been comforted with. It will all work out it the end.

    One silver haired sister to another,
    Andrea Dawn

    • Dear Andrea Dawn,

      I was so blessed by The Art of Life and your gratitudes Monday. I left you a note over there. Thanks for enjoying “old” music with me. It is one of the perks of the silver hair!


  2. my dear Dawn… this is a heavy one.
    however… I am going to be bold to say that because of the fruit in your life, I would be most surprised if your good time in prayer and worship was anything less than David’s joy in the Lord, which had been misunderstood by his wife. To rejoice in the Lord, to enter his gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise should be a joyous encounter and celebration which would make it a very good time in the Lord. If it was shallow then as well your trust in the Lord would be shallow, as well, your faith, and your willingness to lay down your life for so many around you, or your willingness to teach others God’s ways above all else. You would be lacking in many areas… you wouldn’t want to serve, you would be hiding from God’s truth, you would not be in constant prayer, and you would not hunger for righteousness. I cannot see your heart Dawn, only God can, but I see your actions which seem to spring from a pure heart, one made new in the Lord and desiring to fully honour Him…
    There is a time for sackcloth and ashes, for brokenness and presenting ourselves prostrate before the Lord. In our lives there will be times when that is all we can do and we lay in great remorse for the greatness of our sins or for the burdens on our heart. God sees this too.
    But we have a great Redeemer who has gone before us, and by His Word and His Spirit renews us day by day and desires that our joy be full… whether that is in worship and prayer or in our daily life… it is not wrong to exalt Him with great joy… which is all I have ever known you to do my dear friend.
    Cast your cares upon Him for He careth for you.
    Though there may be weeping in the night, joy cometh in the morning.
    Great is His faithfulness and His mercies are new every morning.
    Be glad in the Lord for He has done great things for us.
    Worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive glory and honour and praise… it does feel so good to give all our worship to the One!
    That is just a fortaste of our heavenly joy. Day by day His Holy Spirit worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. What a blessing if this is indeed an area He is speaking to you about and you hear Him, but do not give foothold to the devil who has no right to enter and take away the joy that you have gained in the Lord.
    He(Jesus) will keep you in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him.
    Prove all things, hold fast to what is true.
    Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!
    I love all your gratitudes… each one reflects a pure heart my friend

    from a silver created friend who loves you.

  3. Dear Dawn, I know the feeling you’re getting from reading St. John’s book. I believe there are two types of joy and it’s not easy to differentiate between them. The first is enjoying the act, and the second is enjoying what you get out of the act.
    A friend of mine once told me that if I am enjoying my ministry, I’m not really serving. He was right!
    Another example is prayer. Jesus, Himself, knows prayer is sometimes boring. He said, “men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
    Our very compassionate God, doesn’t break us; He only breaks our pride. If you feel pride because you know you pray more than anyone you know, or because although you were very tired you still prayed then that’s wrong. But if you prayed while you were very tired, and God gave you joy in some mystical way to thank you for being such a loving person that although you were tired, you didn’t skip prayer, that’s something else.
    I feel I’m going in circles and not touching the point 😦 .. I hope you got something from what I’m trying to say.

    • Dear Susan and Mike,

      The difficulty with having a pure heart and being humble is that if you really are, you aren’t aware of it. It is the nature/essence of the trait that when operating in purity or humility, you are too pure and too humble to notice you are. Thus, my dilemma… St John of the Cross says that when the dark night extinguishes the dross of sensuality then our Lord can teach us how He communicates with the Spirit and this is quite similar to how He communicates ordinarily, but those who have gone through the first dark night are no longer stirred by the mortal senses. He even has a chapter in the book at how you know when your mood is of God and when it is not.

      My dear Friends, I will develop this into a post, I think. I don’t quite have what I need to finish here and I must go to the free medical clinic to work right now. I love that you commented and I would like, Mike, if you would say more about why you believe your friend was right in telling you if you are enjoying your ministry you aren’t really serving.

      Love to both of you,

      • Dawn, when you said there’s a chapter in the book which helps in knowing whether your mood is from God or not, you encouraged me to read the book. I found it online at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/john_cross/dark_night.toc.html if any of your readers are interested to read it.

        You are perfectly right about if you are aware of your humility then you don’t have it. This is actually true about all good things, if you are aware of your righteousness, then you are lacking it. It strikes me how Jesus said, “When you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” (Luke 17:10) .. I am waiting for your post about this; it’s an extremely deep topic.

        You asked me why my friend was right when he told me that if I am enjoying my ministry, I’m not really serving. I’ll give you an example:
        Do you enjoy people sharing their problems with you? At first I enjoyed people sharing their problems with me. I was happy that people trusted me with their secrets, I was happy that my words soothed their pain …etc. Once my friend highlighted my problem, it disappeared (sin can’t stand being exposed). Now I still talk with people, but now it’s painful. I carry their burden, I feel their pain, and really pray that God would interfere. I don’t care whether the solution or the soothing came from my mouth or from someone else. I just care that the problem would end soon.
        It’s really burdensome! You don’t just carry someone’s problem, but all those who talk to you. I don’t enjoy it, but I do it, because I know it’s my duty as a fellow Christian.
        Of course, I can’t miss the joy it brings at the end of the trial or problem. It’s as if you threw a heavy bag of sand off your shoulders! The joy now, is much much bigger than before! The joy now is because the problem has ended, not that I soothed a person with my words.

        I apologize for the long comment, it’s more of a post! Also please excuse my “going around in circles”; I am so not focused these days, and I feel I’m losing my ability to write 🙂

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