So gluttony can, to summarize Lewis, turn the inner part of yourself bit by bit away from God each time you choose to indulge it. And this can have serious effects on the state of your soul.
The proper response to this moral deficiency is developing the virtue of temperance.
While I don’t deny this, I must admit that I hate the word temperance. When I think of temperance, I get the picture in my head of the nerd at the bar with his buddies saying, “No, no, I really shouldn’t, thanks though guys,” as he cleans his glasses and wipes his nose with his handkerchief. I get that picture because I’ve been that guy. I’ve also (perhaps more often) been the guy shouting at that guy to shut the hell up and pound a car bomb for crying out loud.
Neither one proved satisfying.
I know the problem is not with the word temperance but with the connotation it holds for me. I think temperance is meant to be less about the sheepish loser who doesn’t know a good time when it’s in the glass in front of him and more about preparation.
It’s about getting into fighting trim.
How different if when I had said no to those beers I had been doing it because I was in training, in boot camp for the spiritual battles that lay ahead, the battles to overcome lust and pride and sloth and all the little inconveniences of family life that threaten to distract me from its beauty? And how different if I had seen my brothers in that light when I was telling them to belly up to the bar, if I could see that it wasn’t just a matter of them needing to loosen up but a matter of keeping oneself lean and strong for the front lines waiting in the dark night? Perhaps this millstone around my neck might be a few pounds lighter.
My heart desires this temperance deeply
Nothing inside of me wants to be “well-behaved” or “presentable” or “a moral example”, not really. But I do want to win the battle for my soul.
I know I must fight and scratch and kick at the demons clawing at the edges of my heart, waiting for the slightest of openings, whether it be a mortal sin or an extra bite of cheesecake. It does not matter to them. All they care about is getting in.
And all I care about is keeping them at bay.
But how to do it when I’m so weak, when I’ve failed so often already? Well, to return to the idea of addiction, I must admit I am truly powerless over my sins. The only way to win the battle is to let Christ fight it for me. And if this is the case, at the end of the day the only thing I have to fight for is prayer.
I have to fight my fatigue and my boredom and my busyness, my laziness and my attachment to playoff hockey and everything else that tempts me to skip prayer just this one night. And I have to give up all the little local anesthetics I apply to my emotions during the day and instead acknowledge them as they enter my soul, assess their malignancy and ask my Physician to heal me every time I need it.
This is how we win. This is how we get virtue.
This is how we get into fighting trim. This is how we become a part of the Body of Christ, the Church Militant marching to the beat of the Spirit into the heart of our Father-land.