“Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.” 2 Samuel 13:2 NIV
Tamar was actually Amnon’s half-sister, though of course this doesn’t make things a whole lot more palatable. At the beginning of the chapter we are told that he has fallen in love with her, but this love quickly transgresses the line and becomes an unhealthy lust. It is the seed for the violation which Amnon will engineer and perpetrate which we will look at tomorrow (I warn you now in case that is too difficult a subject).
Obsession starts small. We think we are in control of our thoughts and our desires, but if we do not temper and control them, and do not have a healthy self-discipline to tell us where to draw the lines of correct thought and behaviour, they can begin to spill over into dangerous areas. Sin always grows from a small seed, in a travesty of the same process that grows faith. Obsession is also a travesty, but of love. If we love God, we find ourselves gradually wanting to spend more and more time with him, and the same is true if we love a person. If it is love, we want to find out about them, we want to please them, we want to get to know how they tick, what they like, how they think, what we can do to be a blessing in their lives.
If we are obsessed with someone, it is, in reality, all about us. It is about how we see them, how we imagine them, what we can see ourselves being like with them, and what we might want to do to them. Amnon’s “to do anything to her” betrays the nature of his feelings. He doesn’t love Tamar, he wants to use her. It is always a tell tale sign for something that is wicked, that it will be about our pleasure, our feelings, our desires. It will not take any account of another person’s feelings. And the more we magnify ourselves, the smaller the other person or our intended victim will become in our eyes. And the more a person becomes an object, the less human they are, the easier they are to hurt or defraud or attack, violate or kill, because they are only a thing. This for me is why objectification, sexual or otherwise, is supremely evil. It is when people or animals become things in our thinking or feeling that we are in danger of treating them wickedly.
Obsession is about something we want from someone, whether it is a physical need or a quality they have that we would like to possess. It is coveting, wanting something that is not ours to take. And it is a path that is hard to turn away from once we start down it. Amnon’s obsession makes him ill, probably in his mind, body and soul, and it ultimately gets him killed, ruining two lives. Obsession can be beaten though sadly it is not in this story. It is something that needs uprooting.
First it needs to be cooled, like a hot brand steaming in cold water. Then it needs to be dislodged from our hearts. Only the grace of God can do this for us if we have let ourselves foster an unhealthy obsession for too long. And it may be one we’ve indulged and is just as often about material things or pastimes as it is about another person. The modern word is probably addiction or compulsion. The antidote to all these things is self-control, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. In our entitlement “the world owes me” culture with so many boundary issues, it is one of the most important and precious gifts we can foster.
Anything can become an obsession, and it is all about where we set our focus. If we put our minds and hearts into it, we can even become obsessed with things that don’t exist: the perfect partner, the perfect complexion, some strange ideal of shape, even aliens. Keeping our eyes and hearts firmly on God, and on good things, is the way to avoid such distressing and demanding trains of thought, which start as tiny streams and soon, if they are made our focus long enough, will swell into rivers that think nothing of bursting their banks and flooding over boundaries into areas they were never meant to reach.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 NIV
Photo from morguefile