I have made an astonishing discovery: the water fountain at Emmett’s community center has magical qualities. I’m not sure exactly what those qualities are, but the water itself appears to have an irresistible appeal.
Here’s how I’ve come to know this startling fact: two nights a week, my son has Karate class at the community center. During that hour, no student may drink from the fountain. When the class is over and the final “domo arigato” is spoken … well, let’s just say you wouldn’t want to stand in the way of those thirsty Karate students. They literally stampede.
So does that fountain produce remarkably tasty water? It’s just city water like any other faucet in town. Or perhaps the kids are just especially thirsty after an hour of hard physical work.
Here’s my guess: the water is forbidden, and is therefore more desirable. Throughout the hour, the kids will glance longingly at the fountain and sometimes one will even ask for a drink – a request that is always denied. When the session is over there’s only one goal on every student’s mind: Karate Water.
I’m suddenly realizing why my campaign to get my kids to like green vegetables has backfired. I should have just forbidden spinach all along.
Why are we tempted by the forbidden? If there’s ice cream in my freezer, I can’t stop thinking about it – even though I’m not supposed to be eating ice cream. Or, perhaps, that is the reason I can’t stop thinking about it.
James puts it this way: “…each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (1:14-15)
Temptation is specialized. I may be more inclined toward, say, dishonesty than you – while you may struggle more with gossip or anger or lust. Knowing this about ourselves may be the first step toward overcoming temptation.
C.S. Lewis writes: “Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is… A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.” (Mere Christianity)
I want to exercise my “temptation resistance muscles.” When I’m faced with an impulse that is difficult to endure, I want to stand firm and remind myself that, as James writes, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)