words from a broken vessel

Do You Have “Spiritual Pica”?

Pica1I was reading online about a bizarre eating disorder known as “pica”. According to the information I read, pica is the eating of strange and sometimes dangerous substances (like dirt or paint) that have no nutritional value. While this does sound gross (and if doesn’t, have yourself checked for pica), there is a spiritual counterpart.

C.S. Lewis describes it like this: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (From his book, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses).

The prophet Jeremiah laments about the wickedness of the people of Israel. God declares His judgment if they failed to repent and obey the Lord. In one verse, God seems to sum up, not only Israel’s problem, but also most of us:

For my people have done two evil things:
They have abandoned me—
the fountain of living water.
And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns
that can hold no water at all!
(Jeremiah 2:13 NLT)

Here is the interesting correlation between pica and this verse (maybe we should call it “spiritual pica”). In both cases, both have a legitimate need. The one with the pica disorder is hungry, which in itself is normal. The same goes to Israel (or us) in spiritual matters – we all have an internal thirst (our desires) that seeks to be quenched. But as in either case, the person is fulfilling that need in an inappropriate manner. The person who is diagnosed with pica is trying to satiate a hunger with substances that cannot satisfy, have no nutritional value, and in some cases, will harm you. The same thing occurs when we try to satisfy that intense inner longing by “feeding” on sin.

In the verse mentioned before in Jeremiah, God is mentioned as the fountain of living water, the true place to satisfy those desires that erupt in our hearts – desires of acceptance, love, intimacy and other needs. However, the ancient Israelites forsook God. Rather than continuing to drink from Him, they decided that they could fulfill that longing using their own methods. So by turning away from God, they then made an imitation – a cracked cistern. A cistern was a place where water was held, usually for cleaning or toilet purposes. Plus, not only did this cistern collect polluted water, it was cracked, which meant that it was continually leaking and never full. God is making the comparison between choosing Him and a toilet! And that is the comparison when we choose to find fulfillment in sin and not in our Creator.

Whenever we have temptations, remember that we, as sinful creatures, tend to satisfy them through sinful means with the hope of fulfilling and quenching those desires. However, it never happens. We come back again and again to a filthy cistern that cannot even contain its contents, hoping that somehow if we go back and drink enough times we would find satisfaction. We may even dig even deeper into that cistern, indulging into even viler sins and yet, still have that empty feeling in our souls.

So what do we do when we are finally tired of going back again and again to the place of futility and harm? We do what God tells Israel through Jeremiah:

“O Israel, my faithless people,
come home to me again,
for I am merciful.
I will not be angry with you forever.

Only acknowledge your guilt.
Admit that you rebelled against the Lord your God
and committed adultery against him
by worshiping idols under every green tree.
Confess that you refused to listen to my voice.
I, the Lord, have spoken!
(Jeremiah 3:12-13 NLT)

Resist the urge to give in to “spiritual pica.” Go to Jesus and ask for the grace to remember that whenever we have desires, it is our souls telling us to go to the Lord Himself for satisfaction. Then – and only then – would that thirst finally be quenched and to overflowing.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:13-14 NLT)