Below is “The Butterfly Sex Effect,” a message in which I:
- Acknowledged a place in life where the Hindu/Buddhist concept of karma rings uncomfortably true;
- Confessed to having personal space issues;
- Referenced John Mellencamp, England Dan & John Ford Coley, and Timbuk 3;
- Declared to singles: “if God can raise the dead, he can keep your pants on”;
- Moved from meteorology to biology to family dynamics;
- Talked about a modern American Adultery Hall Of Shame;
- Tried to contaminate people’s fantasies.
- After several wordsmithing attempts, arrived at this bottom line . . . a bottom line in which the cadence means everything:
Stay away . . . from those who don’t see the way . . . life is connected.
I assume many of you have heard of what they call the “Butterfly Effect.” It’s the notion that a butterfly flapping its wings at a certain time and in a certain way in Rio de Janeiro will influence the atmosphere just enough that three weeks later Texas will have an outbreak of tornadoes rather than a week of sunshine. The smallest actions in one place have enormous consequences someplace else. With the “B.E.” comes the idea of that all of life is connected, inter-related and that is it naïve to think that an action you take HERE won’t have a consequence somewhere else.
And if you ponder it at all, it is sort of true on its face, is it not? That everything about us and our present will one day become our past which will influence our future? There is no decision or action taken in absolute isolation from every other decision or action. Take the concept out of the realm of meteorology & put it into the realm of biology. You know enough about the human body to know that 3 packs a day NOW makes it exponentially more likely that you will contract lung cancer THEN. Life is related, nothing is isolated. A six pack a night that becomes two leads to job loss, family upheaval, a night in jail and a stint in rehab. It’s all connected. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know; just reminding you of what you may have forgotten.
It’s all connected – beyond biology and into relationships. When Nancy Reagan died a couple of months ago, her daughter Patti Davis – who’d had a frankly tortured relationship w/ her mom – wrote this incredibly insightful line: “to understand our parents we must know theirs.” Whoa. And I know so little given the age of my parents! So wise. It’s all connected. How you were parented has everything to do with how your parents were parented. And how you are parenting today has everything to do with how you were parented yesterday. Moms & dads: that’s what you’re doing to your own children – for good and for ill – on this very day. Small actions today have enormous implications tomorrow. And there’s one other area in which clarity & wisdom come from seeing the B.E. at work and heartache & isolation come from ignoring: romance, intimacy, sex, and marriage.
See, where digging into Proverbs in this Preventology series. And not just because both begin with “P.” But because Proverbs is all about preventing crises rather than managing them. And as we get to Ch. 5 of this remarkable collection of wisdom, the book takes on the feel of a father-son / teacher-student lecture, and the seriousness of the upcoming subject is apparent in 5:1a:
My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
Hey son! Listen up! Next sentence:
turn your ear to my words of insight,
Same idea, spoken a slightly different way. This upcoming terrain is exceedingly imp so pay attn.
And then look at 5:3:
For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil;
The lips of the woman. Not her beauty, just what she says. Not how she looks, what she thinks. Not the visual. The verbal. Now: this particular dialog is in the form of father-son, so the warning is against an adulterous woman, but can we be adult enough to realize that it goes both ways? That it’s speaking just as clearly about guys on the make? About playuhs?! Because look at the bitterness that comes from succumbing to adultery’s words in 5:4:
but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword.
Now: jump down to 5:11-12 – we’re GONNA circle back, but I really want you to see this now –
At the end of your life you will groan,
when your flesh and body are spent.
12 You will say, “How I hated discipline!
How my heart spurned correction!
You know what this is? Old Man Regret! Old Lady Regret! So vivid. The ultimate coulda woulda shoulda. And I see that and the litany begins in my mind: John Edwards (AV). Mark Sanford (AV). Jimmy Swaggart (AV). Bill Clinton (AV). Not even just guys – we’ve even had female pastors in the UMC throw ministries away with affairs. Those exposed by Ashley Madison. Hi profile ppl with the world by its tail, a future so bright you gotta wear shades, and throw it away for (good) old-fashioned adultery. Living examples of Proverbs 5:11-12. Momentary excitement in exchange for lifetime of embarrassment & shame and “how could yous?!?!”
But really, it’s not just the ones on the news who get me; it’s the anonymous ones. The ones I know. Here. And ones I DON’T KNOW. Both those for whom Prov. 5 has already happened and the weight is incredibly heavy AND those who are slowly, imperceptibly inching there … & I am praying my words are helping prevent. Those who are snacking, flirting, fantasizing. Because remember the series? Preventology! What do I want to prevent with this? Not only affiars but the hauting, hurting, body aching regret that follows. I long for the people of this church NOT to experience the bitter reality of Proverbs 5:11-12. Proverbs paints the picture and then says, “Don’t be that guy! Don’t be that girl!”
And do you know where all this starts and how all this related? Look at 5:6, realizing it applies to adulterous men as well:
She gives no thought to the way of life;
her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.
Oh! She/he sees life as a series is isolated, disconnected encounters! That what you do with your body & heart in the moment has NO BEARING on the moments that will follow. And you know who else thinks that way? THE WHOLE USA! Higher ed. Hollywood. Ashley Madison. The internet. Life is disconnected and you have encounter A, B, C, D & they isolated from each other and not related to the rest of your life. What a load of bull! Scripture pains SUCH a different picture & all of life is a connected web – more strongly with sex & romance than anywhere else – and every event has consequences that are unavoidable. (Buddhists & Hindus have something on us! Sexual karma is right!) That’s why some of you who “sowed your wild oats” before you married after been unable to settle down afterwards – because patterns, habits, consequences have an ongoing ripple effect.
It’s all related. It’s why it’s the Butterfly Sex Effect. And that is much more profound in marriage. There are people out there and people in here who continue to see sexuality & fidelity as independent, isolated actions of two bodies rather than as a deeply related mingling of two souls. And look what Proverbs says in light of all that in 5:7-8, noting the repeated command to “listen” (DOUBLY serious): READ. Stay away. Don’t go near. So here it is, people for whom I want to prevent heartache & trauma: Stay away . . . from those who don’t see the way . . . life is connected. Some guys & some girls willingly or unwillingly don’t see the butterfly sex effect. Don’t be that guy/girl. More important, don’t go near them. Especially, ESPECIALLY, if you find them attractive. Disconnect from those who don’t see the way life connects. Stay away . . . from those who don’t see the way . . . life is connected.
Because here’s what I know some married people are doing right now. You find that guy or that girl attractive. You’re sniffing the air, snacking on the fantasy. Flirting we often call it. And online life, digital life, throws a whole new dimension into those possibilities. You’re not necessarily thinking affairs now . . . but you’re inching towards the line. Will they FB me? Will they text me back? Will they think I’m funny? Will they will they will they? Listen: you tempt fate in that way and fate wins! And the ache of Prov 5:11-12 will be yours. Stay away . . . from those who don’t see the way . . . life is connected.
And get this, guys, especially, though I’m sure it applies to females as well: no one flirts from a position of security. You get flattered. She compliments, he touches, she texts, he sends a note . . . your endorphins release, you feel 16 again, and all of a sudden it’s GAME ON. Let me bring you down to earth. No one flirts from a place of security. You are just on the receiving end of that person’s insecurity, expressed as flirtation. Worse: you’re not the first & you won’t be the last. It’s all from his insecurity, his lack of confidence & the more vulnerable you are to it, the more you are becoming temporarily blind to life’s connections. I’m here to throw cold water on all that (DO IT????) ; to contaminate your fantasy. It’s not love, it’s not you belonged to someone else when the right one came along; it’s a deep pathology. This affair that is suddenly in front of you is in no way isolated, disconnected. It’s butterfly sex and the tsunami it will cause will be deadly. Stay away . . . from those who don’t see the way . . . life is connected.
Beyond all that, you who are increasingly vulnerable to flirtation. Here’s an obvious sexual equation: he who will cheat with you will cheat on you. She. You are living, bodily proof of that fact. That’s why the few affairs that turn into remarriage have a perfectly dismal record of longevity. Duh.
Can I have a word to singles? Look at Hebrews 13:4: keep the marriage bed pure. Oh, Lord, keeping the marriage bed pure starts BEFORE you’re married. Now. I don’t care about your history. I know that a whole lot of people have already broken boundaries in this area of life. But here’s what else I know: if Jesus can raise the dead, he can keep your pants on from now on. He can. You are in his image. You are his precious possession. So by his power & grace & intervention, resolve: I’m having a pure bed from now on. Because I guarantee that level of post-marital faithfulness is directly related to the level of pre-marital purity. You may think a message on preventing affairs & their bitter aftermath doesn’t apply to you singles, but it does. Stay away . . . from those who don’t see the way . . . life is connected.
So: how? How does this knowledge of a principle – REFRAIN – get lived out. Is it OK if I get very practical here? You can even jot this stuff down?
First, look at 5:2:
that you may maintain discretion
and your lips may preserve knowledge.
I love that. You know that the erosion of public discretion has led to the erasure of private discipline, right? We’re not discreet about anything anymore. That’s why FB, Instagram, and Snapchat. Hey: be discreet. If you got it, you don’t need to flaunt it!
Second, maybe you’ve heard of the wedding ceremony where they had a unity candle moment & afterwards the bride & groom both blew their candles out after lighting the new one. The preacher turned and said to the congregation: “That means no old flames.” BOOM! Right! Close the door on all that. The internet makes all kinds of reconnections possible that make you hold on to 16 as long as you can . . . but you can’t. So don’t.
Third, do not confide about marital probs with anyone of them opposite sex. I’ve had so many say to me in adultery’s aftermath, “Oh, he was my confidante.” No, he wanted to sleep with you.
Fourth, speak well of your mate in public. Populate your work space with photos. On so many occasions, I meet people Julie works with & they always say, “Oh, I feel like I know you so well already?” Why? Because she tells them about me. What a gift! Which so speaks to what Proverbs 5 tells is the ultimate in affair prevention: look at 5:18-20:
May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
19 A loving doe, a graceful deer—
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be intoxicated with her love.
20 Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife?
Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman?
I love that! Want what you already have. Instead of intoxication with the new & the strange, drink deeply and drunkenly from who you already have. And if you’re like, “yeah, but he’s not as good looking as new guy! She’s not as hot as affair girl!” then look in the mirror. Neither are you. Cold water. Want, desire, learn to long for what is already have.
Because I in contrast to all those John Edwards-esque headlines, I have dreams of new ones (AV): PASTOR STAYED FAITHFUL LAST NIGHT. CHRISTIAN BUSINESSWOMAN KEPT HER VOWS. LOCAL CHURCH REPORTS A DIVORCE-FREE YEAR. PROVERBS 5:11-12 A THING OF THE PAST.
Why? All of life is connected. And just how much? Listen to this from Time Magazine, from an issue called Unfaithfully Yours:
Or is marriage an institution that still hews to its old intention & function – to raise the next generation, to protect and teach it, to instill in it the habits of conduct and character that will ensure the generation’s own safe passage into adulthood. Think of it this way: the current generation of children, the one watching commitments between adults snap like dry twigs and observing parents who simply can’t be bothered to marry each other and who drift in and out of their children’s lives – that’s the generation who will be taking care of us when we are old.
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