Monday, November 17, 2008

obsession

Augustine had more to write on love, and less on sex than many realize. His concern over obsession was over affections that are good, created by God, but disordered in fallen humanity. In other words I see something of the goodness of something of God's creation and instead of loving it in its proper place, I can begin to make it the center of my affections, displacing the Giver, God. All of God's gifts are to be received and enjoyed, but always with God as the center of our affection. We find out that when we know God's love and return something of that love to God, in other words when by grace we begin to live in God's love, paradoxically we appreciate God's good gifts in a way that actually brings more enjoyment and delight.

For Augustine, and for C.S. Lewis it was never a question of humans having too strong affections, but that they are disordered so that humans obsess over what can't really bring either the lasting or depth of satisfaction that God alone can bring. To begin to really know God's love and seek to live in that love towards God and others will translate into a joy for life, as we appreciate the good gifts from God for what they are. But left to themselves apart from this love of God, all the gifts from God while still good, lose their luster, and besides, none can replace God, since all else is hardly a poor substitute at all. And with that we become obsessed and enslaved to that which is not only not a god, but ends up dehumanizing us in the process.

I have found this so in my life. When by grace I am endeavoring in Jesus to live in God's love, life takes on a new delight. That's when I have to be careful because I can so easily set my heart on something less than God during such times, since I find such delight in God's good gifts. But then what I set my heart on I find to be a poor substitute for God, as I leave "the spring of living water" for "broken cisterns that cannot hold water" (Jeremiah 2:13). In the end we lose out entirely when God is not first in our affections. And we receive all things fully when God is first and supreme in our affections. Either way, that begins in this life, and even has fulfillment here and now.

What thoughts would you add to this? How do you look at this in your own life?

(After reading from The Consolations of Theology, edited by Brian S. Rosner, the chapter, "Augustine on Obsession", by Andrew Cameron.)

12 comments:

lorenzothellama said...

I like Augustine!

NaNcY said...

interesting thoughts here, ted.

Lanny said...

Yes, it is easy to get more involved in the gift than the Giver. And sometimes those whom we choose to put in leadership positions, out of perhaps good intentions, encourage us to focus on the gift rather than the Giver.

But really what I have to say for you today is that I have a an award for you at my blog. It is in the "Finishing Up Before the Season Ends" post. I know you probably don't do such silly things but I wanted you to know I appreciate your blog. But I will be glad if you do accept it!

The Wingnut said...

Solomon in Ecclesiastes comes to mind...

How easy it is to follow the things of this world and elevate them to God's place in our lives.

Actually, as I went through my blogroll today, this seemed to be a theme, and so I had to post on it as well.

I am finding that these timely reminders happen more and more frequently!


wingnut

L.L. Barkat said...

just listening ... :)

Ted M. Gossard said...

Lorenzo, Me too.

His "Confessions" is a masterpiece about his life before Christ and his life in coming to God through Christ. It's a confession, as I recall of both the greatness of God as well as his own sinfulness and waywardness, and the great salvation of God in Christ.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Nancy, Yes.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Lanny,
Thanks much. I look forward to checking it out, and I'm sure I'll accept it, and am honored to receive it. Thanks again, and for your comment here.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Wingnut,
Wish I could say we're all influenced by the church calendar, but most of us aren't on it, including myself. But amen, and thanks.

Ted M. Gossard said...

L.L.,
Always good to know you've been here.

NaNcY said...

living in the Love of God is for us as well as for God. it is relationship for us that is the gift of freedom from being without the relationship,which is utter loneliness and loss of our reason for being created into life and living. breath.

we can be many things without God, but none of them are the things we were ultimatly created for. God wants us to live along in relationship with Him. and we can start to do that right now if we actually do that. relate with God in Jesus.

yes, now.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, Nancy. God made us for relationship with himself, with each other, properly speaking with ourselves, and with God's good world as stewards in it. It starts with our love relationship with God as you well say here, and then goes from there.