Cravings

15 03 2009

We don’t always get what we want, thankfully.  Imagine if your every impulse was satisfied, or even a few different ones throughout the day.  Our desires often override good judgment, but it’s not in the ignorance of these desires that we find temperance.  It’s in the subduction of them.  I had somehow gotten the idea that our desires are always going to be stronger than our penchant for good;  I hadn’t really tried to eliminate a lot of childish behavior because, quite frankly, I didn’t think it was worth trying.  Passions rule our lives so often that we can often start to believe that they will always be that strong, that we can do nothing to quell that yearning.  In fact, it was in a little bit of spiritual retooling that I began to suspect that the whole “you will not be tempted more than you are able” thing was actually related to our behavior.  We are not always going to be sheltered from the worst that this world has to offer;  there is no “barometer of human capability” that we can’t control.  One has only to look to some of the saints to see examples of those who had significantly quieted the desires of the flesh, and we must not fool ourselves into despairing in the face of temptation.

In one of Leo Tolstoy’s short stories, Father Sergius, an old man faces his fleshly desires head-on, and defeats them at any cost.  Sergius has lived a mostly isolated adulthood until, one day, he is beset by, essentially  a whore.  The story culminates with him shaking, alone in his room, as she coos and begs for him to open the door.  Sergius, ala Joseph, flees from temptation, albeit in a different manner.  The point (since I’m an expert on these things) of the story is, of course, up the to reader to decipher, but I drew a few conclusions of my own.  It is fairly clear that Sergius’s whole time living a disciplined and monastic life is just barely enough to supress his sinful desires when the woman first knocks on his hut door.  As she persists, his resolve wavers, and his overtly Biblical choice sends a stark message to those who would plead helplessness in the face of their own desires.  Sergius, in an act of desperation, grabs his hatchet and lops off his finger.  He then opens the door, and the woman, shocked as she begins to grasp what has just happened, is eventually led from her own sin as well.

Gratuitous Russian story plug aside, I’ve merely realized lately just how weak humans really are.  Considering how much faith we consistently put in our appearance, resources, abilities and reputation, it is little wonder that we have blinded ourselves to this weakness, but we cannot expect to seriously combat sin unless we put our faith in He who knew no sin.  I’m saddened when people pray to be delivered from temptation without making any adjustments to flee from it themselves.  I’ve been trying to seriously fight my own inclinations towards sloth this year, and it’s gotten more and more difficult the more conscious of it I become.  My thoughts begin to suggest that perhaps my bodily exercise is sufficient; my sinful heart tells me that others are largely to blame for not fulfilling promises or for helping me out.  The bottom line, though, is that I haven’t gotten onto my feet and motivated myself to make some things happen more often than not.  It’s all well and good to proclaim that God will carry us, but we cannot sit around and wait for him to do so and expect to be swept into righteousness.  Every Christian who has truly pursued their Savior has discovered that steep climb, that grueling journey;  of some of the greatest examples of this pursuit, we notice a great commonality among them: they all found rest with Christ, but never on Earth.  The world’s philosophers will sit by the fireplace, telling you why things are, will be, and have been the way they are.  As one called to run, flee, march, soar, get up, and follow, I must stop reveling in the idleness of the world and start throwing myself headlong into the grueling pursuit.  As long as I long for the comfort of my temporary home, I will never seek the everlasting comfort of my eternal one.

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