SAN SEBASTIAN, BASQUE COUNTRY, SPAIN — I didn’t want to make the two and a half hour drive from Jaca, but my wife dragged me out of the apartment. Once I hit the open road and saw the sprawling mountains and crystal blue waters along the highway, I knew we made the right decision. I didn’t know what to expect, but everyone said San Sebastian was their favorite place in Spain.
Now I understand.
There are people everywhere; and it’s not even summer season. The weather today is a gift from God. Blue sky and the perfect amount of sun-sizzle on the back of the neck.
But I can’t stop noticing the wickedness of this fallen world. Life would be so much easier if my eyes hadn’t been opened to the truth of reality—the truth of Jesus Christ. He died and after three days, he rose from the dead. And we will rise from the dead too.
And we will be judged.
How do I go about my day now that I know this?
I see endless girls in bikinis, and less. Thongs are waving in my face like tiny Basque flags, prompting me to rise and salute in patriotic zeal. I’m not looking anymore, but can see the temptation in my peripheral vision. I can feel it. I can’t escape it. I think about how Jesus faced every kind of temptation and did not sin. How did he do that? I want to be like him.
My lust is now exposed and the Lord commands me to repent of it—I think I’m being sanctified.
So when the supermodel walks in front of me and the entire world stares at her butt cheeks bouncing back and forth around the thin fabric of her g-string, I look straight ahead and fight the temptation with all my might.
I know it’s there. It’s right in front of me. It’s been right in front of me since I stepped foot in this city. As we waited at the bus stop, the young college girl temped me with her legs, but I wouldn’t lust. She smelled like sweet candy, but I wouldn’t let my thoughts go there.
This is the battle now.
And I’m in the thick of it in this beach city in Spain. There are girls everywhere. The old version of me would be creeping with my shades on—staring aggressively at every single one of those curves of young flesh.
Now here it is. The moment when I’m about to break.
My wife and baby girl are out wading in the water. I’m sitting on the beach shawl, guarding the backpack that holds our wallets and cellphones. And the group of jaw-droppers walks by. They slink in slow motion, my eyes catch a flash of flesh and I know that they are there. But I keep my gaze to the horizon and admire the mansions on the bluffs. The mansions are not nearly as enticing as flesh. Nothing ever is.
I feel the pull of my eyeballs like they have been pierced with fishhooks and I’m being dragged toward the four of them prancing down the beach. I’m bait. I’m helpless. I don’t want to look. I won’t look. I pan around and see the towering statue of Jesus that looks down on the city from atop the cathedral. I realize how weak I am. I don’t stand a chance in San Sebastian.
I don’t stand a chance anywhere.
So I close my eyes and I pray to the Lord. I ask him to take away my filthy lust—these thoughts. I tell him I don’t want it anymore. And I mean it. I know where lust leads, and it’s a path I don’t want to traverse ever again. I know how Jesus feels about lust, and I want to please him. So I tell him that I can’t do it on my own. I ask him for strength. I ask him to deliver me from these temptations.
I open my eyes and I’m not lusting anymore. Not even close.
Now when a sultry temptress walks by, I only see the devil trying to capture my eyes—and my soul. But God has given me the strength to defeat this.
I survived the beach.
I wade out into the frigid April water and dive in, feeling the pins and needles on my scalp, as I swim smoothly through the cold water. I need this cryotherapy to combat the simmer of sex and lust lingering on this beach.
These poor young women. They are so young, and wearing nothing.
The world’s going to eat them up. But I won’t eat them up anymore. I won’t gather up that lust and stuff it into my heart. I’m not going to salivate. I’m not going to crave. I’m fighting you, lust.
I’m fighting you.
We leave. Just as I am about to celebrate my victory, I see out of the corner of my eye—it’s the devil himself. I can only make out the silhouette. She’s young and rocking back and fourth with every step and wearing a g-string and her butt cheeks are hanging out and glistening in the sun. The world stops to watch her walk. My wife says, “whatever you do, don’t look to your left.”
She knows this fight I’m in. But I’ve already seen the enemy seconds ago. I saw her before she even entered my field of view. I sensed her. I smelled her. I heard her high-heels clacking like hooves on the hot concrete. My guard was already up.
I fix my gaze upon the Basque architecture of the city skyline and these bluffs of antiquity. I repeat the Bible verse I’ve been memorizing for the past two days. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of Spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him, to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4: 12-14 ESV)
So instead of sex and lust and pornographic scenes and day dreaming, I put my focus on my Lord and on his Word. That is my weapon now. And I’m in a war. I’m outnumbered and cornered here in this beach city in Spain. But I have something they don’t have. I have a plan of attack. It is the sword of the Spirit and it is shaper than any two-edged sword. It has caused a division between who I used to be and who I am today.
And it’s none of my doing—but the incredible grace and patience of the Lord.
Goodbye, San Sebastian, you are an incredible place; you stirred my soul again to write. But you stirred my temptation and almost did me in. I leave you, naked and exposed, knowing that he who discerns all hearts, thoughts, and intentions has given me the strength to endure this suffering.
I’ll be back again one day, San Sebastian—and when I see you then, you won’t stand a chance.