My Broken Appetite
For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:21
Recently, I listened to a medical education lecture on overeating, in which the speaker talked about the similarities between food and drug addiction. Both apparently trigger a release of the same neurotransmitter (dopamine) in our brain which reinforces pleasurable behavior. In fact, the unhealthier the food, the more dopamine was released. Healthy food, on the other hand, released very little of it. Our brains are wired to eat that which is bad for us. Most of us just naturally have self-destructive appetites.
This isn’t that surprising to us. At a Super Bowl party last night, we noticed that the celery went untouched, while the cookies and chips were consumed in large quantities. The problem though, is that our appetite for the unhealthy goes beyond just food. We all seek happiness, joy, and pleasure. That’s the definition of pleasure – something that feels good to us. We most often seek it in immediate gratification though, which is usually selfish, short-lived, with some painful price to pay later. It’s natural for us to pursue our own desires, even if those desires are harmful to ourselves or those around us.
The Christian life then, is decidedly unnatural for us. Jesus taught that to be a disciple meant we must daily deny ourselves and follow him. In today’s passage, Paul lamented that there are so few who actually follow Jesus. It’s just natural to follow ourselves. We say we believe in God, but daily, we still just pursue our own path.
I was fortunate enough that in my drug addiction, it was revealed to me how profoundly destructive my path was. In my addiction, I asked God to change my appetite. I refused to change anything though, until he changed my cravings. Some people experience that instant miracle, but I didn’t. In the end, I discovered that he wanted me to obey him first, radically abandoning the old life, following the new one. In doing so, he did miraculously change my appetite. I no longer struggle with the daily hunger to use drugs, because I now want my new life and my relationship with him, more than I want drugs. I still know that drugs would feel good. I just no longer want that life.
For most of us, this is how our appetite is transformed. We can learn to eat healthy, when, through discipline, we discover that we want a healthy lifestyle more than we want cookies and chips. Similarly, as we abandon our own path to follow God’s, we find that the new life provides far more joy than the old one ever could – without the self-destruction.