Tag Archives: focus

106. Sharp and Soft (Juxtaposition 6)

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I often wonder if the beauty of a rose would be quite so beautiful, or seem so soft and serene, if it were not next to sharp and solid thorns, capable of tearing and wounding. The difference between the flower and its protectors is brought into even closer focus by their nearness to one another. Would a rose, by any smoother stem, smell as sweet?

text and photo © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

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67: Obsessed

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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

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from morguefile

58: Hormonal

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and Potiphar’s wife soon began to look at him lustfully. “Come and sleep with me,” she demanded.” Genesis 39:7 NLT

 

Human beings have so many struggles, don’t we, even with our own bodies, our own minds, the very things that you would think we would be able to control and understand. But even the parts that make up our whole are often temperamental and beyond our regulation. We go so far as to ascribe independent control to the bits of ourselves that don’t behave. “Oh, it’s got a mind of its own,” we say of gammy legs, of gorging stomachs, of wayward eyes, or of other parts that seem to override our best intentions. The Bible is full of men who couldn’t seem to control their passions, sexual or otherwise, and a great deal of harm was done because of it. Our hormones, it would seem, are the hardest parts of ourselves to keep in order after our tongues.

There are precious few incidences where women are overcome by their lustful urges in the Bible. Which makes it all the more strange that we are so often accused of being slaves to our hormones. It seems men have a lot more trouble keeping their testosterone under control. But here is one such rarity, Potiphar’s wife, who longs to sleep with Joseph, who in turn refuses the advances of his master’s wife, and ends up slandered and imprisoned for his integrity.

We are all tidal creatures up to a point, and we all get overtaken by our urges from time to time if we are honest, even it if is an uncontrollable urge to binge on chocolate or to snap at our loved ones. And some of this we can put down to hormones, and excuse one another our weaknesses, which after all, are common to humanity. But perhaps sexual urges are more important to control, as infidelities wreck and even cost lives. Demanding that others satisfy those urges, as Mrs Potiphar does here, is a complete negation of Joseph’s humanity. She clearly viewed him as a slave and nothing more, despite his being master of the household. We must excuse one another our minor and occasional lapses, but also become friends with the self-discipline that will save us and others from being used and abused.

I often hear people say of those who left spouses or wrecked homes, “Oh well, you can’t help who you fall in love with!” I disagree, in fact, because one can control where one is focussed. As we see in today’s verse, lust begins (as we saw with David and Bathsheba) with looking. If we train ourselves not to look, or rather, not to look with lustful hearts, then we won’t succumb to temptation. Lust and love are very different of course, but where faithfulness is concerned the remedy is the same, self-control, and keeping our attention where it should be. If we feel ourselves in danger, we must take steps to avoid the person concerned, and not allow ourselves to be ruled solely by fleshly passions which will often tear lives and hearts apart and marriages asunder. Eyes and hearts kept on God and his ways will keep us from grievously wounding him or others.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay