Habits, Cravings, and How They're Connected
On a Wednesday night a while back, I was sitting around a wooden table in my church’s cafe, surrounded by the faces of high school girls that have become familiar to me over the course of the past two years. Every week at youth group we have some sort of fun game, we hear a short sermon, and then we break into small groups where we dive into questions about the night’s message. Hearing the girls’ hearts as we seek to know Jesus more in community is by far my favorite thing about being one of their leaders.
This particular night, the sermon was about spending time with God—in prayer and in His Word. Eager fingers darted towards the tray in the center of the table, holding our weekly snack of steaming hot French fries, ready to be dipped in nacho cheese. As we finished digging into the food and excited chatter finally subsided, we began to dig into the questions.
Why is it important to spend time in prayer and in God’s Word?
It didn’t take long for the answers to become questions.
Why is it so hard to spend time in prayer and in God’s Word?
Why IS it so hard?
My quiet times seem to have a distinct rhythm. I’ll go a few days doing really well, giving myself ample time to read, pray, journal. Then I’ll hit a morning where I wake up late, or maybe wake up on time but have trouble focusing. Maybe I’ll even spend time with God but walk away not feeling whatever I was wanting to feel or not hearing from Him however I’d hoped to. Then, I’ll somehow slip into a few days of super quick quiet times, doing more to feed my sense of Christian duty than they are my relationship with God.
Why IS it so hard?
If you’re anything like me, the last few days have held some hamburgers, a county-fair corndog (can’t pass those up), one too many cookies and whole lot of other good grub. Fourth of July weekend will do that to you.
As delicious as everything was, too many days of too much junk food definitely caught up with me, and yesterday’s return to work after a long weekend was especially lethargic. To stop the sluggishness, starting yesterday morning I decided that my body could do without a week or two of sugar, as well as any unnecessary dairy and carbs—all things that taste a whole lot better than they’ve ever made me feel.
To be honest, I was never all that health-conscious until about a year ago when a friend and I did something called the Whole 30. As their website states, the Whole30 is “a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.” Basically what this means is that for 30 days, you’re eating a whole lot of fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, meat, avocado, and of course, cauliflower rice. The idea is that you can’t tell if certain foods like dairy, sugar, grains, and legumes are having a negative impact on you unless you go a period of time having eliminated them completely.
All pretenses aside, my Whole30 only lasted a whole twenty days, but even in that time I was absolutely astounded by the results. I’ve never had so much energy as I did when I was committed to eating clean—it seriously felt like I was experiencing a whole new quality of life I hadn’t even known existed before. My mind was crystal clear, I was no longer fighting that 3 o’clock slump, I was less prone to anxiety, and the best part of all? I was actually craving healthy food. Vending machine Doritos and afternoon cookies were no longer a temptation to me—a small miracle in itself.
But here I am describing what Days 10-20 were like, making the whole thing sound like a piece of cake (pun definitely intended). The reality is, before Days 10-20 came Days 1-10 and those first 10 days…Pure. Torture.
I finished Day 1 thinking the whole thing was going to be a breeze, but by Day 3 I had it out for whoever decided to create a program of such cruel and unusual punishment.
The thing is, before my body could crave the good stuff, it had to rid itself of all the toxins.
This meant pounding headaches when my body didn’t get its normal sugar fix, extreme fatigue, and the most ravenous cravings I’ve ever experienced. During this transition period, the body is learning it can no longer rely on those easy access energy sources it’s been accustomed to. Instead, it’s learning to efficiently burn whole foods as fuel, which takes some effort.
For that first week and a half, I wanted sweets so badly they became a regular fixture in my dreams (slightly embarrassing), and eating anything that even mildly resembled a leafy green was entirely forced. Healthy food didn’t at all sound good. In fact, it sounded like the worst possible idea—I simply didn’t want it.
But right around the ten day mark, something magical happened. A coworker brought in a box of Krispy Kreme’s in the morning and I anticipated the familiar rush of craving as I walked on by, but it never came. A few minutes later, still nothing. Then something strange happened. I began to notice a craving, but it wasn’t for a chocolate-glazed with sprinkles. I was craving my scrambled eggs with chopped bell pepper topped with avocado chunks.
After force-feeding myself healthy food for 10 days, I now wanted it.
If you’ve read my blog before, you may be sensing an analogy coming on and if so, you’re right.
I’m learning that cultivating spiritual health is a lot like cultivating physical health. When you first start out, there’s a period of time where quieting your heart to hear from God and talk to Him feels a bit forced, because you’ve been accustomed to getting by on your own. But once you start to drink Him in, you begin to realize how thirsty you are, and you discover a whole new world of richness and meaning you hadn’t even known was there before.
When we haven’t spent time with Jesus, we go into a sort of spiritual autopilot where we just survive. But when we begin to feed Him to our starving souls, we awaken a capacity of life that, once tasted, we can’t turn back from. We begin to thrive.
I think that the reason quiet times sometimes feel hard is because we haven’t pushed past the bad habits of being rushed and restless long enough to get to the point where we crave Him, where the thought of entering our day without having first filled ourselves with Him is unbearable, because we’ve experienced firsthand the vibrancy available to us when we do.
We have to do the hard-work of creating habits before we can enjoy the ease of turning to Jesus as naturally as we draw each breath.
I want to be better at pushing past the metaphorical Days 1-10, even on the days when it’s hard to focus or when my to-do list threatens to pull me from the present moment. Without pushing through in the first half, I miss the sweetness of intimacy with Jesus offered to me in the second.
Go-to healthy snack options. The Larabars contain nothing but fruit and nuts, and are somehow still delicious!
Whole30-approved mayo. Perfect for chicken salad!
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