Obsession is a word that often carries the weight of negative connotations, and usually justly so. One definition of obsession is, “an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind.” I think that is an excellent definition of the term.
In his short epistolary novel The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis’s narrator, one of Satan’s demons, encourages his young protégé (his nephew, Wormwood), to feed human’s little obsessions, whatever they may be, with one exception:
All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged.
The Enemy, of course, is Christ & His Kingdom.
With one lone exception, anything can become an unhealthy pursuit that begins to dominate your time, your thoughts, your heart, & even your pocketbook. Anything can potentially snowball into something that gradually pulls you from Christ’s bosom.
I think we’re particularly vulnerable to obsessions when we’re young. An obsession can take the form of another person, including someone you’re initially drawn to because you believe he or she will bring you closer to Christ. An obsession can take the form of an activity, even a healthy activity like running or reading that exercises your mind or your body, respectively.
An obsession can manifest itself in the form of a collection. I’m thinking of Ariel’s line, “wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?” Collections easily become expensive and addictive. Last summer I read the Harry Potter series for the first time, borrowing my sister’s paperbacks to do so. After I finished reading the final book, I decided I needed a set of the books for my own library. I soon found myself constantly searching online for first edition hardcovers of all seven books.
I do love books, and I have a lot of them. I love the way they look, lined up neatly on the shelves. I love the way books feel in my hands, and I love the smell of their pages. I hope to eventually own copies of the Harry Potter books, but I finally decided it doesn’t matter if they are hardcover first editions. Those are not cheap, and the words are the same in the paperbacks.
My time to do frivolous things is limited, as are my funds to spend on fancy hardcover first editions. This is a minor example, but after a few weeks, the desire to own these books was eating up too much of my time, threatening my pocketbook, and negatively affecting my relationship with my young children, who are not always supportive of my efforts to search for books online.
Understand that as a Christian, you have a target on your back. Don’t assume Satan is not after you; the Bible tells you that he is (I Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour”).
Be honest about where you are vulnerable. A healthy sense of self-awareness is an invaluable tool for a Christian. If something, or someone, causes you pause, ask yourself these questions:
If I always find time and energy to devote to this (activity or person), am I equally as fervent about finding time and energy to attend services, to pray, to read my Bible?
If I have money to spend on this, am I giving enough to the work of the Lord’s church?
If you answer no to either of the above, it doesn’t mean you’re anything other than human. Guess what? I am human. I’ve been there, & at this moment have pet rose bushes in my own life that need pruning.
Unless your unabated zeal is for Christ & His church, always be cognizant of your hobbies, your little pleasures, no matter how healthy or worthy you deem them to be. Satan isn’t going to come after you waving something or someone you detest in your face. He’s going to worm his way into your thoughts and your life slowly via a person or an activity that initially seems innocent, fun, perhaps even holy. Again quoting The Screwtape Letters, “Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
Resolve today to find balance among your passions and activities. Own your mind and your heart by holding a constant vigil warding off potential intruders. In 2016, be a fangirl for Christ, and Christ alone.