“I’m obsessed!” You’ve probably heard that popular saying by now. The phrase could sound pretty benign when referring to a favorite ice cream, a brand of shoes, or a TV show – or it could take on a more serious note when it’s referring to a person or an issue. In the first instance, one could argue it’s just an expression and not really a big deal. In the second, it could sound a little manipulative and scary.
That phrase, and the motives behind it, deserve some prayer and attention. Is it healthy to be “obsessed” about anything? And even more important, does it accurately describe our love for something, or does obsession have a slightly darker tinge to it?
“Obsessed” is defined as “to have the mind excessively preoccupied with a single emotion or topic,” “having or showing excessive or compulsive concern with something,” “haunted."
When you dig into the Bible, you see different degrees of obsession being played out. And they usually include a focus on personal power and strength, a departure from relying on God.
How about Samson? He struggled with vanity and pride. His story is complex (see Judges, Chaps. 13-16), but you could say he was obsessed with his beautiful hair. He associated his strength and his power with it. Delilah helped his enemies exploit this weakness, and his strength left him. Samson later humbly called on God to strengthen him.
Then there’s Herod. He sent the wise men to bring him news of the baby Jesus’ whereabouts. He was obsessed with holding on to power, killing every baby under a certain age that was born around the time the prophesied Messiah appeared. His actions were not consistent with someone who leads his people with honor; he was thinking about self, obsessed with securing his place in the world (see Matthew, Chap. 2).
If we’re thinking about the connection between our prayers and how we can guard against the more malicious, scary, fanatical obsession that leads to fighting and power struggles – on a global scale, or even within a group of friends – it can be useful to start by eliminating the small obsessions in our life, one by one. Do we find ourselves preoccupied with self-righteously correcting someone when they’ve messed up? Or maybe just looking in the mirror constantly? There is a way we can move away from the compulsion to ruminate, evaluate, obsess. Practicing humility, being occupied with doing good and listening to God, makes us less impressed when we have to face worries that try to drag us down and make us feel separate from God, from good.
Trusting divine Love to guide our thoughts and meet our needs frees us from obsession and affords us the mental clarity to see how all the strength and beauty and skill we have come from Love. No need to be obsessed; instead, be available for God’s messages. You won’t be disappointed.
From an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.