Sunday, August 05, 2007

Savoring Temptation

I've been thinking on the nature of temptation. More precisely, on why some temptations are so hard to resist and so hard to get over. Whether that temptation is for a chocolate brownie or something else, what is it that keeps the temptation alive?

Sometimes for me, it is that I allow myself to savor the temptation(let's call it a brownie). There is a deliciousness to the desire that simply feels good. Whether it releases pleasure chemicals in the brain or there is something else going on, it is so incredibly appealing that I don't want to let go of the temptation itself. I allow myself to think about the brownie, and soon I can smell it, I can feel myself lifting it to my mouth--oh, it's warm from the oven. I can feel the cakey gooeyness on my lips and can taste the rich, chocolatey flavor. I can feel my teeth striking a not quite fully melted chocolate chip, and can feel the endorphins release.

There is nothing wrong with a brownie, and perhaps your other temptations as well, as long as they are in the right context. In a reasonably healthy and moderate diet, and occasional brownie is a wonderful thing. The problem comes when we would rather have that brownie than the healthy foods that provide proper nutrition, or when we will eat it even when we are full, or when it becomes the staple of our diet.

What about the nature of flirtation, either expressed or merely in one's own head? See the pleasure of anticipation is a wonderful thing. It can be a great part of dating, engagement and marriage, but when a man or a woman savors a thought of that outside of that relationship, or with someone who is either married, engaged, or is otherwise completely inappropriate, it's trouble. And the same things we must do to avoid the brownie temptation we must do to avoid the inappropriate flirtation and fantasies.

If you are having trouble with brownies, you stay out of the bakery! You don't bring them home and say, well, I'll just have a little now and save the rest for another day, when you know you won't do that. If you're having trouble with fantasy or flirtation, you avoid that person. In both situations, and with other temptations as well, you discipline your mind. When you find yourself mentally savoring the object of your desire, you change your thoughts. Go for a run, call a friend, read a book, read the Bible, pray. Don't allow yourself to luxuriate in thoughts and desires for things you should not have! Flee temptation.

I was watching a show the other day where the lead character was following the path of betrayal. As it unfolded I found myself wanting to shout, "Run away! Hide! Leave!" But, of course, she didn't, because we are told in our culture that we cannot help these attractions. Also, we don't want to look like idiots running away. So her relationship was destroyed, and her affair ended, and she was none the wiser, just in a lot of pain. None of her friends told her the truth, though one kind of tried, they were just "there for her". Whatever that means.

Gosh, I hope my friends would be there for me too, but with love and truth, not love and wishy-washy platitudes. See, I've been taken to task by friends at times, and when it is done by people who love me and will stick by me, it has made a profound difference in my life and in my behavior and attitudes. I have a greater respect for people who will speak the truth in love. It is the harder path to take. It's riskier.

But when it comes to resisting or even fleeing temptation, what is the risk? Looking foolish? People who really love you (and have a working brain and common sense) will be proud of you for doing what it takes not to mess up your life. They will be pleased that you will do the right thing even when it's hard or embarrassing.

But what happens when we give in and allow ourselves to merely enjoy the desire. Well, desire gives birth to lust and lust to action (sin), and that action has terrible consequences. The Bible talks about sin birthing death. Well, certainly in the TV show, the death was to the relationship. There was the terrible wounding of other people. In the case of the brownie temptation, well too many of those and you'll have yourself a case of obesity, and that leads to diabetes, heart disease, stroke... None of those are on the "good" list.

So what do we do when the brownie calls to us? Put a stop to it! Some people do this by sticking a piece of strong mint gum in their mouth, or by drinking a glass of water. Some might take a short jog, or meditate on a verse of Scripture. Some might call a friend. I just say, do whatever it takes. The verse I think about is Romans 13:14 "Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." I have a version in my head that is almost the same...don't know why the words are slightly different, but this is how I recall it: make no provision for the fless, to satisfy the lusts thereof. This verse runs through my mind when I pick up a package of Oreos. It runs through my mind when I open the freezer for ice, only to find that someone has bought Entennman's chocolate glazed donuts. It runs through my mind when other temptations face me. I'm thinking about getting it painted on my refrigerator door.

Make no provision for the flesh.

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