“New year, New you,” as every unrelenting fitness advertisement would say. It is a time of making goals for oneself and starting on a blank page.
These past couple months, I have found myself in this place of loneliness. Sometimes, although you may have people around you, there is just something that gnaws at you. Whispers often circle your head, thoughts of worthlessness, loneliness, and disappointment. Especially, when the season that you are in has proven to be challenging. I know God knew that. I know that He was listening to me when I would tell Him how I was feeling and, funnily enough, He steered me in the right direction.
By chance, I stumbled upon an Instagram post by Havilah Cunnington, she was starting a new study on January 1st, and was inviting people to join her. And guess when I found out about it…yeah, January 1st. Now that doesn’t seem very impressive at all right? I mean come on, January 1st is like every Christian’s first day of fasting (If you fast), prayer, and bible study. I am not one to usually join these kinds of things, but I really felt God saying, “This is for you,” so I did it and boy, was He not kidding.
The study is called Soul Food, and when I opened up to the first page this unbelievably profound quote stared back at me:
“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”
When I read this, I felt a massive pang in my stomach. There isn’t something wrong with me!
Throughout my life I’ve had people very close to me that I was needy, annoying, and too sensitive; my need to have quality time, be hugged, and have meaningful conversation made me odd. Because of this, their words would often echo in my head, which would led to stress and anxiety. Am I being annoying? Am I talking too much? Oh man, should I hug them, should I not? Should I text them? Call them? What did they mean by that, am I being dramatic? Do they even care about me?
In Havilah’s study she takes you into the story of Adam and Eve, more specifically “The Fall of Man.” And I know you’ve probably heard this story a bajillion of times, but this time around I really found new meaning in it. She highlights that all of mankind has needs, we were designed that way. First, we have external needs that need to be met, like food, water, shelter, clothing, etc. But, we also have internal needs, meaning the need to be loved and the need to belong.
If we look at the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had it made! The bible says in Genesis 2:8–9, “Then God planted a garden in Eden, in the east. He put the Man He had just made in it. God made all kinds of trees grow from the ground, trees beautiful to look at and good to eat. The Tree-of Life was in the middle of the garden, also the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil.” So you see, they both had all their needs met. They had all the food and water they could ever ask for. They were safe. They had love, companionship, and they knew who they were and who they belonged to. I mean come on, God would even walk among them. They were naked, and felt no shame. But that is when the whispers happened.
The enemy took the form of a serpent, and began to distort what God had said to them. See, this is what the enemy does. He doesn’t flat out lie; he distorts the truth. And once we engage a conversation with him is when we find ourselves in trouble, like Eve.
Eve had this sort of innocence to her, and she didn’t eat the fruit as a means of condemning herself. Just like a teenager scrolling through Tumblr stumbles upon a racy photo and decided to click the link, or a young person decides to take that one puff of a cigarette, or someone sits in their living room eating a whole pizza and candy by themselves. It’s those whispers of “I just want to belong,” “I just want them to like me,” or “I just want to feel good.”
If we look deeper, it often comes to our lack of knowing who we belong to. The truth is, we belong to a Heavenly Father who just wants to love on us and meet all of our needs. He wants us to feel like we are part of something and belong to someone. He designed us to want to be loved. But when we engage with those whispers, and eat from the meal of temptation, we cause a disconnect. When Adam and Eve ate from the Tree-of-Knowledge, they caused a disconnect between them and God. Just like when we try to get our needs met elsewhere, we disconnect from God because we do not trust that He has us.
Yet, some might ask: if God knew that they would give into temptation, why put the tree there in the first place? Well, I’ve learned that love isn’t real if it isn’t a choice. God didn’t want us to be soulless automatons who just mindlessly worship and converse with Him. He wants authenticity and honesty. He wants us to choose Him, just as He chose us.
The bible says that after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they hid because they realized they were naked. They felt shame and vulnerable. But guess what God did, He made “leather clothing for Adam and his wife and dressed them” (Genesis 3:21).
I love the analogy Havilah uses in her study, she paints the picture of a young woman in bed with her significant other in a compromising situation, when suddenly her father walks in on them and catches them in the act. The girl is vulnerable, exposed, and immediately feels mortified and shame. The couple quickly try to gather their garments, anything that will cover them. Yet, the father does not scream, yell, and go on a rampage, but rather, he finds her robe and clothes his daughter. Although, he may not be okay with her actions, he knows that she is his kid and he wants to protect her. She comes to realize that “his love is far greater than her actions. [His] desire to cover, protect, and provide, overrides any other motive” (Cunnington). And that is exactly how God felt about Adam and Eve, and how He feels about us.
As I sat and processed this, I drew an image of Eve sitting under the tree and looking down at the fruit, flirting with temptation. Cut-to: a modern woman sitting on her bed with her laptop and cellphone, doing the same. We aren’t so different from Eve after all. People often joke and blame her for The Fall, but what I realized was, I am Eve. Every day there is a fruit in my hand, and I have to choose whether to surrender my needs to my Father who loves me or try find it in a place where I know my hunger for love and belonging will not be satisfied.
I realized that often my needs are not being met because I try to find them in people. Not knowing, we try to force people to fulfill the need that only God can satisfy. Then when people can’t, we start to look for it in places where we shouldn’t. Every day we need to take hold of our identity, and remember who we belong to.
So if you can relate to this, I encourage you to think about the places in your life where needs are not being met. Present those needs to God, and open a dialogue with Him about it. Also, if you find Havilah’s teaching intriguing, I also encourage you to look into her online study, Soul Food, to find out more about the meals in the bible and how they pertain to you, or become involved in other studies. Stay connected with God, and remember that you are Loved and you Belong.
Soul Food: A Spiritual Guidebook to a Satisfied Soul by Havilah Cunnington