Most of my childhood I prayed for a best friend. While other boys in the neighborhood were busy playing games that I neither understood nor enjoyed, loneliness was my constant companion. Despite my differences as a gender-nonconforming boy, I simply wanted to belong.
It was clear to me that I was different, so rather than finding another like me, I made a mini clubhouse in my closet. With a battery-operated lamp shinning and my favorite blanket keeping me warm, I sat in isolation journaling to Jesus. When would he send me a best friend?
Several years later I met another just like me. His name was Jose. We got along so well, almost like finding a lost twin who shared my emotional DNA.
After begging our parents to let Jose spend the night at my house, we had finally gotten our way. We were going to spend the weekend together.
An older boy approached Jose and me as we walked through a nearby park. He asked us if we wanted to play with a menacing tone in his voice. Taking his first easy opportunity, that boy punched me in the face.
The only other aspect I remember from that incident was that the young boy yelled homo as he walked away.
As a 12 year-old, I wondered why my desire to belong came with so much shame and pain. In one instance it felt like I was so disgusting that no one wanted to befriend me. And in another, I was considered too vile for public, somehow deserving of violence.
Sooner or later the emotional craving to belong had been so distorted by my reality that I began to think my desire- my feminine, dirty, and socially deviant desire- was too dirty to produce anything clean.
So I hid, loosing all comfort to be myself and to share that vibrant self with others.
My emotional craving to belong, that innocent God-given craving, had been distorted.
After living in a realm of relational starvation, my need to belong started to boil over. I began doing anything to belong, especially in high school when I was most fearless.
Behaviors like drinking, lying, embarrassing myself, and even harming others were fair game. I just needed to belong.
After watching myself turn into a relational monster, I again heard the voice that affirmed my desire to belong was anything but clean.
Looking back, I’ve grown very sad in realizing that we’ve lost any connection to our distorted emotional cravings because we’ve been tricked into believing that our problem is our physical behaviors- not the distortion that produces them!
Let me explain.
1 Peter 2:11 clearly identifies the ongoing battle between our “fleshly lusts” and our “souls.” We find another reiteration of this duality in the Apostle Paul’s writing to the Romans, specifically in chapter 8:
“5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace…”
After considering the divine design of our emotional cravings, I believe that the ‘mind set on the flesh’ has nothing to do with behavior.
The ‘mind set on the flesh,’ however, is a mindset that participates with the distortion of one’s emotional craving. In other words, the ‘mind set on the flesh’ allows the distorted emotional craving to be a guiding moral compass, specifically in a deed-based version of righteousness.
For example, my mindset of the ‘flesh’ was not that I had become a relational monster, drinking alcohol like it was my full-time job. Again, this interpretation of the ‘mind set on the flesh’ emphasizes nothing but behavior.
The mindset of the ‘flesh’ was believing, and participating with the belief, that my inherent God-given cravings were damaged and intrinsically flawed. The participation with the distortion is the purest version of missing the mark (aka. sin), to be exact.
If we are to be free from the ‘slavery to corruption’ (Romans 8:21) then our focus should no longer be attuned to our physical behaviors, but on the mechanisms that distort our emotional cravings, which produces those behaviors.
Through the lens of an awakened consciousness, the freedom from the “obligation” to the flesh (Romans 8:12-13) is not perfect physical behaviors (the thing most of us call righteousness). Rather, freedom from the flesh occurs when we deconstruct the distortion and realize that our heart is always pure. In this new light, we are able to choose behaviors that match the value of our emotional cravings…because we now know how beautiful our desires are! Now we're hitting the mark square on: a true knowing of God's created being.
This discovery allowed me to understand that I did belong, but not as a drunken misfit, but as a valuable contributions to relationships. This discovery allowed me to sit in relationships that honored my worth and the worth of others. When my emotional cravings lost their distorted view, so did my ability to choose behaviors.
So, when we return to the innocence of our God-given emotional cravings have we also returned to the mind set on the Spirit. When we have deconstructed the shame and relational reality that has distorted our emotional cravings have we also deconstructed the mind set on the flesh.
When we remove the distortion from our emotional cravings is when we also remove sin from our bodies- the sacred bodies that were designed to be relational beings.
There is no longer any condemnation, your emotional cravings are always and forever innocent. So if you’re still stuck on judging your behaviors, start with removing the distortions affecting your emotional cravings. You’ll finally discover righteousness, and maybe for the first time.