I am gluten sensitive. It’s not a full-on allergy or disease, but when I have too much gluten it really messes up my sinuses. My eyes look puffy and my head is stuffy. I try to avoid gluten when possible…mostly. But sometimes I really want a bagel, toasted with cream cheese. Yes, they have gluten free bagels but they aren’t real bagels (definition of real bagel is one packed with gluten). I can sometimes get such a craving for a bagel that I finally just eat one and suffer the consequences. As long as I’m confessing…I also cheat on gluten with an In-n-Out burger, bun and all. I don’t need bagels or burger buns but I really, really want them sometimes. I personally don’t find this to be a major flaw in my character.
I also sometimes want things that are not good for me in a deeper sense. I really want to be accepted and loved. Nothing wrong with that, right? Everyone does…or at least most folks want that. But I have to be careful that I don’t compromise who I am just to get others’ acceptance and love. Finding my confidence or identity in everyone else’s opinion is a terrible way to live.
I have dear friends who really want to be married. I have friends who want to have a family, a better car or bigger home. It’s not a huge deal to want such things, but when they become near obsessions then they have gotten too big. That’s when it becomes a craving…a hunger for something that occupies your central thoughts. Gratitude is an important antidote to such cravings but there is also another level that we must deal with when a hunger has come to occupy our thoughts, emotions and plans. I believe in having goals and dreams that give us motivation toward our future. Goals and dreams shape our decisions, relationships and values. Right and healthy desires help us shed bad and pointless habits or patterns. Unhealthy desires draw us into bad decisions, relationships and often override our values. Years ago I talked with a young man whose greatest desire was to be a famous musician. He was married, had a baby and was still focused primarily on a career. As we talked about his relationship with his wife and daughter, he told me he resented both of them. “I told her before we ever got married that my career would always be most important. This is her problem.” Wow. A woman who loved him and a daughter who needed him did not dent his plan one iota. He had an insatiable hunger to be a famous musician and that was it. By the way, even after he was divorced and free to pursue his career he never made it. Apparently he wasn’t as good as he thought. I talked with him just a few years ago. He is not thriving, happy or contented. His craving was never addressed nor satisfied.
The consequences of indulging our cravings for food and alcohol are obvious – obesity and alcoholism can literally kill you. Failing to address addictions of all kinds gives an open road to self-indulgence that can destroy families, jobs and relationships as well as our very lives. I’m not just talking about ‘moderation in all things’ here. It’s more about sanity.
I once heard a young woman say, “I’d rather be married and divorced than never married.” Her desire to be married outweighed the truth of what marriage is to be and she obviously didn’t understand the pain and consequences of divorce. The man I mentioned earlier who pursued a musical career believed that his personal success far outweighed his family…their needs and the love they had for him. When he finally understood, it was too late.
Take a minute to sit quietly and assess your cravings. If you’re lucky (and relatively healthy) those cravings might be chocolate or wine or golf. But if you discover that your cravings are more deep-seated and that they are driving your life, then take action. Talk to God. Talk to someone. Start making life choices that redirect your path toward balance and sanity. I’ve decided to eat less gluten and play more golf. Start somewhere.
I encourage you to read some of the scriptures below as you think about this issue.
Psalm 38:9 You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh.
Psalm 107:9 For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
Psalm 103:5 He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
Isaiah 58:11 The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.
Psalm 63:5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy.
James 3:13-18 Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish plotting. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats. Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.Philippians 2:3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.