Friday, February 22, 2008

the scarecrow and the swimsuit model

the scarecrow and the swimsuit model

My father, the honorable Reverend Acuff, only got the mail once a year. For 300 days he ignored it, but one particular day he was the first one to the mailbox. That day? The day that the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated arrived. Now don't get me wrong, he got it so he could throw it away before his three teenage boys got it. I swear, he had some sort of ninja radar sense of when that issue would arrive. His ability to hone in on the exact day it would get to our house was frightening.

It's that time of year again, and even though the Maxims of the world have put a hurting on the issue, it's still getting lots of fanfare. This morning when I saw a banner ad for it when I was reading a sports article it made me think, "Why do we men want to look at it?"

The obvious answer is that we like looking at attractive women because they are well, attractive. Women are beautiful and I'd be lying if I pretended that the particular issue of Sports Illustrated was not full of beautiful examples of this simple theory. But behind that, behind the obvious visual attraction, what is about things like swimsuit issues that drive men to act like we do?

For me, and maybe you, it's about more than just the woman in the picture. Ultimately, what it's about is who I could become in the presence of that particular woman. Who she would inspire me to be. What life would be like lived in the orbit of her beauty. The woman fades quickly, but the idea of becoming someone different as a result of who she is, that is what lasts.

You probably don't feel that way, but I promise you have at some point made a decision in your life based on the idea of "if only." I believe those are two really ordinary words that when combined become incredibly dangerous. What does that phrase mean?

If only is what you say when you find a shortcoming in your life and want some reason to explain it away.

If only is what you say when don't have something that you want.

If only is what you say when things are just not good enough.

And so, what I've done in the past and will be tempted to do in the future is to "if only" swimsuit models and cars and houses and job promotions. In my head I'll think, "If only I had a bigger house, things would be so much more peaceful at home." Or "If only I had the right job, people would give me the respect I deserve." Or "If only I had enough money in the bank I would never worry." There are a thousand if onlys is this world and the one guys silently and maybe even secretly tell themselves when they see a swimsuit model is, "If only I had a girl like that, everything else in life would be alright."

But if only is just a subtle way to covet. If only is just a slick way to want something you might never have and lose sight of the amazing things you do have. And that just makes you like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. His big line was, "If I only had a brain." All of his wants and dreams and desires hinged on the possession of a brain.

I think about the scarecrow and swimsuit models when I think of my friend Ben. His wife got a nose job and some lip work done and a tummy tuck. Even though he didn't say it, you could tell he was thinking, "If only my wife looked a certain way I would never be tempted to lust again." But within a month of the surgeries he confessed he still struggled with porn. He was still tempted. The lips and hips and nose did not magically take away his problems.

I suggest we retire the phrase, "If only." I challenge you this weekend to see what you have and be honest about what things or people you're trying to "if only" right now.
I dare us to all stop being the scarecrow.

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Sonny said...

Good one. If only I had and then you get it and 'it' isn't all that!

robyn collins said...

if only... i could write like jon acuff.... hahaha... once again, you bring great insight to every day struggles, and name it... and lay down the challenge. thanks jon

Anonymous said...

Great post. Good for your dad in his diligence to help you guard your heart.

Jason said...

I learned a lot about my own sinful heart as I battled porn. Here are some of the absurdities I realized:

- I would find what I considered to be the perfect picture. After a few days it wasn't so perfect anymore.

- The models that turned me on the most reminded me a little bit of my wife.

What I have since realized is that sex is great and all, but it is not everything. If I had spent my energy on being affectionate toward my wife I think I would have been in a better place overall. The heart is simply a factory for idols. My flesh never found satisfaction in that world, even when I found the "perfect" image.

I am glad for a Savior who always provides the Living Water and is always satisfying much more than the most beautiful swimsuit model.