I’m craving a glazed donut. A Krispy Kreme would be ideal, but there are no stores nearby, so I would settle for a counterfeit. No fruit flavors, please. Certainly no crunchy sprinkles. Just give me a lightly-cooked melt-in-your-mouth baked morsel slathered in a creamy, sweet icing.
The grocery I pass on my way to work has fresh-baked donuts. I was sorely tempted to go in and buy some, but I resisted. It’s a craving, I told myself, not a need. Yes, donuts are a delight, but I don’t need the carbohydrates. I want, but I don’t need. I want, but I resist.
Of course, the craving is still there, gnawing at me—I imagine it laughing at me. It’s patient, it’s persistent, it’s powerful, and it knows if it keeps up long enough I’ll give in.
And isn’t it interesting that when we deny ourselves what we crave, the desire grows stronger. Eating that donut would give me respite from this appetite that keeps begging me to give in!
When I was a kid, I remember swimming underwater at our local pool and trying to see how far I could go before having to break to the surface for air. My lungs would burn, but I would keep going on. A sense of pressure would build up, which soon turned to a feeling of urgency, and I would finally give up, desperately pushing for the surface to gulp down a lungful of air. The moment I did, that feeling of desperation would vanish, replaced by relief.
We have appetites and cravings. Our bodies have needs. Oxygen and carbs are only the beginning.
At a higher level of need, we crave love. Without love we become heart sick, life loses its luster, everything seems to fall out of balance. And what is love, exactly? How can something so hard to define create such powerful cravings inside of us?
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.Proverbs 13:12
We crave love because love is somehow at the very core of our human essence. We were created to love and to be loved. God said in the garden, “It’s not good for man to be alone.” He said that at a time when Adam was the only human on the entire planet. Out of God’s understanding of our humanity and his concern for Adam’s well-being, God created Eve. (It’s interesting that all through the creation story God declares this thing and that thing “good.” The recognition of Adam’s aloneness is the first time God says something is “not good.”)
Sugar cravings and oxygen cravings have to do with physical deprivation. To crave a companion, to crave friendship, to crave someone to love is to experience something not merely emotional or physical, but existential. To love and be loved is less an appetite needing to be satisfied and more like the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle that makes the picture whole, complete, finished.
Love is the answer to the question, “What’s the meaning of life?”
The desire to be loved is a desire to be known, to be understood, to be appreciated and affirmed, to share the experiences of our short lives with someone else. The experience of loving another person—not feeling something for them but being love to them—means setting aside our own cravings, putting our egos on pause, and becoming empathetic for a change. To love another, we must listen, both with our ears and with our hearts, to the needs and desires of the one we love. Real love serves. Real love is kind, patient, hopeful, affirming, caring, uplifting.
I suppose what I’m saying is that when I crave a donut and consume the donut, I quickly forget about the donut. My craving destroys the donut and I no longer give it any thought. Love doesn’t consume. Love doesn’t destroy. Love enriches our lives and the lives of those we love. God’s love for us has the potential to transform us. In the same way, our love for others, if it follows God’s example, transforms the lives of the people we love.
Love is NOT like a box of donuts; it’s way, way better.