After a night of drinking and driving I would slip my key into the lock. It was always my turn to open up shop on Friday mornings. I had to be there early enough to test the blood alcohol content of all the DUI offenders.
I would show up with bloodshot eyes and embarrassment smattered all over my face. How could it be that I was a substance abusing, seminary student working to rehabilitate DUI offenders?
After work I would dash to my own therapy sessions. I would talk of my own emotional needs with my counselor, questioning their validity. A good Christian, I often heard, didn’t and shouldn’t “need” anything but the Lord. It was easy to believe my emotions were damaged, since my own emotional needs always led me down the wrong path.
My own emotional cravings were the anatomy of the flesh that I should learn to live without.
But my view has changed.
Now I see that the majority of Christians have been too quick to call emotional cravings pathology. We have literally split ourselves from, well, ourselves.
I can’t help but to be astonished when I hear sermons where emotional cravings are characterized as the internal vehicle that drives us away from God. We have really lost the fact that God gives us the desires of our heart (Proverbs 3:5-8 & Psalms 37:4).
I used to think that God was like Santa Clause, delivering the desires of my heart. Being clean enough -ensuring my name staid on the good list- and having quiet times was going to keep God in the overnight line at the post office.
As I realized that my good behaviors weren’t forcing God to slide down the chimney and deliver my emotional needs, I had to seriously question the foundation of my faith.
Like a two-by-four whacking me in the head, I realized that God was not sending me the gifts for which I asked. But I came to understand that God had planted the original desire in my heart, and it was my job to seek the materialized version for which my heart craved.
"God had planted the original desire in my heart, and it was my job to seek the materialized version for which my heart craved!"
God didn’t give me a gift, he gave me the craving itself. Like seeds holding all of the genetic coding for every aspect of how the tree would blossom, so too are our emotional desires. All of our cravings are packed into our heart from day one.
In this way, then, growing up meant watching that seed blossom into full-fledged, God-given, innocent desires. God had given me the desires of my heart and I could feel them growing, reaching their way to the surface. What was most spectacular during this revelation, even though it is incredibly simple, was that I was experiencing God’s heart when I experienced my own emotional cravings.
Emotional cravings, I began to notice, were not my demise, they were God’s blueprints tucked into my soul. When I followed my emotional cravings I was following God’s plan.
I didn’t need to follow some random, intangible path with a finicky compass that God would flip on and off whenever pleasing. The plan that God has for me, for us, is to follow the emotional cravings of our heart…that were planted within our essence.
“But what about the desires for porn or the desires for midnight chocolate cake that I get? These are my emotional desires, the cravings of my heart. Some emotional cravings can lead us away from God,” some might say.
Not so fast!
Underneath every craving that leads to a shaming behavior has its origin in an innocent desire.
Porn: the craving to feel powerful, seen, acceptable, desired, and thrill.
Midnight chocolate cake: the desire for pleasure, comfort, reprieve, and safety.
We have to move beyond judging our physical behaviors so that we have time to stop and peak at our emotional cravings. What really is the primary motivation for wanting to look at porn?
The function of our emotional desires is to lead me back to God's heart itself.— Isaac Archuleta (@iAmArchuleta) October 3, 2016
It’s not like we’re only craving to do something wrong and dirty. It’s not just about having a sexual experience. It’s not just about a cancerous selfishness festering in your heart.
It could very well be, and most likely is, that an innocent emotional craving has become associated with a shaming human behavior.
Remember, the God-given emotional cravings that have been screaming in the heart of one who looks at porn are innocent: the craving to feel powerful, seen, acceptable, desired, and thrill. How innocent are those!
So here’s my thought:
After spending countless hours working with clients and examining my own emotional plane, I have come to believe that our emotional cravings are God’s way of leading us to an authentic life where we can experience freedom, joy, and congruence. But when they become overshadowed by the shaming behavior, we allow them to be called wrong.
But its time the Church make peace with the desires of the flesh, because they're from God.
God gave you the desires of your heart. Identify them. Memorize their callings from within your body. Respect them. And meet their needs with healthy innocent resources that leave you feeling proud and liberated, not guilty.
Our desires have been present from the time we were born. Watch them blossom and let them guide you forward.
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