Quick note to you, my reader: I originally set out to post about sex every day for a month. Posting every day was too much. I couldn’t keep up, and I have readers telling me they’re not keeping up, either. I’m going to pare back to 1 post per week, maybe more if it works out. The easiest way to follow is to subscribe to my email list. There’s an email signup form at the bottom of this page. I send weekly updates with a summary of the posts for the week.
Last night I binged on amaretto and maraschino cherries before I went to bed. It seems like a good day to write about… The Flesh. [Cue scary music.]
I’m a very sensual person. And (in spite of the title of this post) I don’t just meant that in the sexy way. A well-placed, well-timed beam of sunshine can take my breath away, distract me to the point of losing my train of thought. Food is something I particularly enjoy. I read cookbooks for fun. I recently told a friend to stop talking in the middle of dinner so I could focus on savoring an amazing piece of bread. (Yes, I’m gluten free. Yes, the bread was more than worth the weeks of intestinal discomfort that followed. It was that good. So buttery and light and… mmm….Anyway…)
I’m probably the last person you would expect to fast. I used to think that fasting was something that gave me extra time to focus on God. “I can use the time I’m not eating to pray.” Nope. Not at all. I usually spend most of my extra thought time working hard not to bite people’s heads off because I’m hangry. What’s the point, then? The point is that there’s a core me inside that speaks louder when I take away the usual methods I use to fill my day-to-day needs. There are desires buried so deeply under my normal, daily activities that I can\’t even recognize them without drastic measures like not eating.
When I fast, my main emotional response has been… loneliness. Wait, what? Yeah, when I don’t eat I feel lonely. And I’m not talking about a passing, “Gee wouldn’t it be nice to go see a movie with some friends tonight?” loneliness. It is longing for companionship so deep and so visceral that it sometimes scares me with its intensity. It is a need so strong I feel like it threatens to consume me. I actually stopped fasting for awhile because it was too much for me. And that was fasting a day or two at a time. I used to read the story of Jesus fasting for 40 days and be amazed that He could go that long without food. Now I think the real miracle is that He survived that long alone in the wilderness with the uncovered longings of His human heart.
What’s scarier is that most of the time, that desire doesn’t even register in my brain. Something so deep and so strong, and I don’t even know it’s there most of the time. When I fast, I uncover intense desires and longing that have been hanging out just outside of my consciousness, influencing my decisions moment by moment. If not eating it uncovers it, it must be what drives me to do things like binge on amaretto and maraschino cherries, right? If not eating for a day uncovers those desires a little—and if even that is sometimes too much to handle—I really hate to think what it looks like at full strength. What is really under there?? That incredibly potent desire lurking just below surface—is that what the Bible calls The Flesh?
“And those who belong to Jesus Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24)
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5)
Is this desire that fasting awakens like the Balrog in Lord of the Rings? Did I “delve… too deep” like the dwarves, awakening something in the darkness? Do I need to Gandalf it away? “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” Is that what it means to “crucify the flesh with its passions and desires”?