(Ladies, I originally wrote this to guys. Please exchange “woman” for “man”, “wife” for “husband”, as is appropriate)
Do you ever go grocery shopping when you’re hungry? What typically happens is you get to the checkout aisle wondering how so many bags of chips, packs of Oreos, and boxes of donuts ended up in your cart. Meanwhile, the cashier is asking you if they can scan the wrapper of the two-thirds of a Snickers bar you’ve already torn open and bitten in to.
It is generally a bad idea to go shopping on an empty stomach, because everything looks appetizing when you’re hungry. The same is true when watching television commercials for food. I hate to admit it, but when I’m really hungry, even Burger King commercials look appetizing. It’s like my stomach takes over my brain and all of a sudden the thought of dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets sounds like a delicious idea. It doesn’t really matter what it is, if it fills my empty stomach and it looks or smells halfway decent, it will do.
The same is true of our drive for validation, approval, and acceptance. If we are running on empty and we don’t already know who we are, then we are bound to be drawn to sources of affection that are temporarily satisfying, yet ultimately toxic.
In all of these, I find “10 out of 10” woman and I create a situation where she accepts me. She is attracted to me. She tells me I’m valuable.
The reason she is so appealing is because of how she makes me feel about me.
If I feel like a loser (or have been told this) but the prettiest girl around says she wants me, then guess what? Everything changes.
My self-perceived value skyrockets.
What better place to find this than pornography? The “10 out of 10” women simply line up, all posing in desire for me, with none of them rejecting me.
Acceptance. Value. Approval.
Even Burger King tastes good when you’re starving.
But on this same note, have you ever watched TV commercials on a full stomach? You’ve just had Thanksgiving dinner and you are stuffed to the gills with your fourth helping of turkey and gravy. You of course have a second stomach for dessert and the pecan pie was out of this world. So you had four pieces. You had to try the pumpkin pie too; your aunt made it from scratch after all. Two and a half pieces later, you call it a day and somehow roll yourself onto the sofa to turn on the Lions game.
The first commercial you see is for Burger King.
Are you more likely to head to the drive thru or become nauseated?
Food looks entirely different when we are stuffed than when we are hungry. The key to avoiding junk food isn’t to tell yourself repeatedly not to eat it; it’s to stay full on the right foods. If you’re already full (and you become accustomed to eating the good stuff), the junk is going to naturally lose its appeal.
Temptation looks entirely different when we are full to the brim with the love and affection of our Father. Whether it’s the seductive eyes of pornography, the flirtations of a cute acquaintance, or the temptation to withdraw our affection from our wife, we will respond entirely differently if we know who we are in Jesus versus if we don’t.
Jesus was tempted beyond what we can imagine, yet was without sin. The only way he was able to do this was by being filled to the brim with his Father’s love and living in the truth of his identity as a beloved Son.
Being filled with this type of moment-by-moment wholeness of who you are in Christ doesn’t happen with a generic microwaved acknowledgement of this truth. Jesus fasted for 40 days meditating on the truth from Matthew 3:16-17 that he was the Father’s son whom the Father was well pleased with. Meal after meal after meal after meal of reminding himself the truth of who he was so he could thwart off the lies when they came.
Have you ever watched those hot dog eating contests on TV and wondered how someone can fit that many hot dogs into one stomach? If you’ve ever heard interviews with competitor eaters, they take their craft incredibly seriously! In fact they compare their training to Olympic athletes. Whether this is true or not (seems hard to believe that ice hockey and eating hot dogs require the same level of athletic prowess), it certainly shows that you can condition your body to develop an appetite for a certain type of food and certain amount of food. People who diet will testify the same thing on the other end of the spectrum: eating less food is difficult at first, but eventually their body adapts (our stomachs actually physically shrink) and becomes accustomed to a lesser amount of food.
So the question is, how did our appetites get so disproportionally large for the affections of a woman and the feeling wholeness this brings us? And more importantly, how do we grow our appetite for God’s love and affection so it can replace the unnatural and unhealthy one?
Like a competitive eater, it requires strict training. Training to call out the lies, hang on to the truths of Scripture, and consume them like a buffet over and over and over again, the way Jesus did in the wilderness.