Aside from the good stuff like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a lot of questionable things came out of the 80s. Perms, spandex, Rick Astley…if there’s a kernel of truth from that decade, though, it’s this: love is a battlefield. Thanks, Pat Benatar.
Seriously, during my engagement, I became more aware of spiritual warfare than I ever had before, particularly when it came to chastity. At the time, I was working full time as a chastity speaker, and my boss had told me to expect a battle. Before then, to be honest, I’d always considered attacks from Satan to be kind of a superstitious thing. As I began work, though, and as my husband and I embarked on our year of long-distance dating and engagement, we struggled constantly. The deeper I fell in love with him, I realized, the more I wanted to express that love fully. Don’t get me wrong; that’s a good and even holy desire, but of course, it has its time and place. Up to that point, our physical relationship was something I was proud of–the degree of purity we’d preserved had healed me from a past relationship, and I could honestly say I’d never felt lustful towards him. I heard Christopher West say that the human heart is a battlefield between love and lust, and he’s absolutely right. I began seeing the reality of that statement more and more. You know as well as I do that pretty much every women’s magazine portrays being lusted after by a man as an ideal, but that’s such a lie. Even having not bought into the culture, I’m sure I’m not the only one who knows firsthand how disgusted with yourself you can feel after you’ve treated the one you love best as more of an object than a person. I feel incredibly blessed to be loved by a man who constantly strove to put his and my desires aside in the interest of preserving as much as we could for our wedding night, humbly asked my forgiveness when he faltered in doing so, and always, always, made me feel so protected and honored even when it was hard. He still does.
So, when we were together chastity was a struggle. What I fought even more, if you can believe it, was purity in my own heart. Even when I was apart from my then-fiance, I couldn’t get the devil off my back. Between my engagement and my job, I was more determined than I’d ever been to be pure in my thoughts, words, and actions, yet at the same time, I was having a harder time of it than ever. I was constantly going back to confession for what felt like the same old sins, and there were a few times when I just broke down with anxiety. On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a day when Our Lady’s conception crushed the head of evil, I was consumed with worries about money and about my worth as a woman. Rather than looking to Mary as a perfect model of faith, beauty, and especially purity, as I usually do, I saw her as an unattainable ideal whom I could never come close to imitating. It felt like one thing after another, and some days, I had a really hard time not seeing my marriage as a finish line I couldn’t wait to just stagger across, when the whole fight would presumably be over.
Have you experienced anything like this? Being in love is so exciting–you’re growing closer emotionally to another soul, and you’re probably spending plenty time together. All of those things are good and beautiful, but they can also add up to serious temptation. Most people probably wonder why, if it’s such a battle, not to just give in and stop fighting. But I knew I wasn’t just following the rules. I was so internally, happily convinced of the right path, knowing it was the best way to show my love. I’m not saying all this to depress you. Instead, I want to encourage you and remind you that it’s not just you. There were times when I felt so unworthy of my friends, my reputation, and my fiance’s love. I felt like a big fake. It’s that feeling of, “if only they knew.” But believe with your whole heart that you are good. You are worthy. You are also human, and the Lord delights in our humanity, flaws and all. Looking back, I’m sure that through every attack on my purity, I was receiving graces I didn’t even know about, and certainly not because I deserved them. So ask for the grace to refuse your temptations, to silence the part of you that feels unworthy, and to endure whatever trials your relationship is going through. Run to His mercy as many times as you need to, and be renewed. The Father is so loving and so gentle with us- remember to be that to yourself, too.
A Benedicitine monk told me once to combat spiritual warfare by standing between the pillars of Our Lady and the Eucharist. He said that when we recognize darkness, to say, “Evil, I reject you. I claim victory. I claim the Cross.” Easier said than done, maybe, but it really is so powerful. You have my prayers. Now go claim what is good, true, and beautiful and claim what’s yours.
The basis of this post originally appeared on Captive the Heart.