The Growl of an Empty Stomach

Although this is written in the first person as a man, it applies identically to both genders.  Trying to include male and female pronouns got to be too cumbersome! Ladies, please read and translate as needed.

Do you ever go grocery shopping when you’re hungry? What typically happens is you get to the checkout aisle wondering how so many chips, Oreos and donuts ended up in your cart. Meanwhile, the cashier is asking you if they can scan the wrapper of the 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.[1] When I’m hungry 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 intimacy, 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.

Pornography. Lust. Fantasy. Affairs.

In all of these, I find a mythical woman, the “10 out of 10,” and I create a situation where she accepts me. She is attracted to me. She tells me I’m valuable.

The reason the mythical woman is so appealing is because of how she makes me feel about me.

In other words, she worships me.

In fact, if we are honest, much of our lust and longing comes from wanting to be a god ourselves.[2] We want to have sex with the pretty girl in the room because it’s a way for her to worship us. It’s a way for us to be shown that we are desirable. And if I can’t get the girl to actually have sex with me or I don’t want to deal with the consequences, I can at least flirt or fantasize about it.

If I feel like a loser but the most desirable girl around wants me, then everything changes. My self-perceived value skyrockets.

We Want to Be Wanted

It’s not simply physical body parts that make us feel this way–it’s the ability to fantasize about the experience of being worshiped by a desirable person. It’s not just this person existing as a static object and being able to look at them–it’s them (in your fantasy) wanting you with all of their being.

The allure of being made into a god is an extremely powerful magnet. It’s the same snare Satan used to get Adam and Eve to rebel against God in the first place:

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.” (Genesis 3:4-5)

Becoming “like God” snared Adam and Eve, it has snared world leaders throughout history, and it snares us when we long to be worshiped by women.

What better place to find this worship than pornography?[3]  The “10 out of 10” women simply line up, all posing passionately for me, none of them rejecting me, and I can fantasize about them worshiping me in every way, shape and form I desire.

Over time, lustful glances at waitresses and receptionists are saturated with these same longings.

Worship me. Please. Tell me I’m desirable. Tell me I have value.

Saying “I want you” is inaccurate. You care nothing for them. You want what they can offer you, but you don’t want them as full human beings. “I want you to worship me” hits it spot on though.

Acceptance. Value. Approval.

Faux intimacy is better than no intimacy, right?

Even Burger King tastes good when you’re starving.

Filling up on the Good Stuff

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 homemade pecan pie was out of this world.  So you had three pieces, which you washed down with a big glass of apple cider.  Wiping your face with a napkin, you call it a day and somehow roll yourself onto the sofa to turn on the Lions game.[4]

The first commercial you see is for Burger King.

Are you more likely to head to the drive thru or the puke bucket?

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.

Related: Porn and the Desire Dilemma

Temptation looks entirely different when we are full to the brim with the love, intimacy 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. Forty days of meals reminding Himself of the truth of who He was so He could thwart off the lies when they came.

Whether it’s in real life or it’s the allure of porn, when we feel our eyes being magnetically drawn to a woman, we need to identify what’s going on for what it is. We aren’t just attracted to her because she’s “pretty,” we are attracted to her because we want her to worship us.

Name this when it happens.

We do have a natural longing for intimacy and approval, but it doesn’t need to be filled by women. Our freedom is found when we realize we don’t need someone to worship us because we are already filled up with the validation of Romans 8:4 and Colossians 1:22.  We are already filled with Jesus’s approval of us, which satisfies our appetite from having to look elsewhere.

Like Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the wilderness, we have to daily come back to the truths of who Scripture tells us we are.  This can only happen from a daily time with the Lord with our Bibles open, allowing the Spirit to remind us that we are already loved, valuable and approved.  By all means, we still need filters on our online devices and regular check-ins with accountability partners.  But without regularly being filled up on the love of Jesus, our stomachs will continue to growl for something that will make us feel okay.

[1] Admit it: you have eaten these. And you still haven’t digested them…

[2] We long for this, yet Paul and Barnabas tear their clothes in terror and immediately use it to give God glory when it happens to them (Acts 14:8-18).

[3] The Journal of Adolescent Research (January 2008, vol.23 no.1 6-30, “Generation XXX: Pornography Acceptance and Use Among Emerging Adults”) reports  87% of men age 18-26 are using pornography.

[4] Which they lose. The Lions always lose.