What We Reach for Reveals our Hearts

In need of a little sunshine, and in an effort to rid our home of sweets after the holidays, I placed a basket of our favorite citrus on the dining room table.  I gave the kids permission to eat them whenever they wanted, and eat them they did.  

We ate twenty pounds of clementines in January.  

Finished all your spaghetti?  Sure, have an orange. Hungry before bed?  Eat an orange. Even our not-quite-two-year old often climbed onto the table and helped herself by biting right through the peel.  I tossed oranges to hungry kids for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Our Vitamin C consumption is through the roof.

It’s amazing what happens when good things are within reach.

Or maybe I should say it’s amazing what we reach for when it’s easily accessible.

If cookies or chocolates were in a basket on the table, I’m confident we would have eaten them just as eagerly.

In my most recent monthly newsletter, I shared with email subscribers that I had temporarily deleted Instagram from my phone.  I thought by removing the one app I used most frequently, I would stop grabbing my phone. I was wrong. I checked email, the message app I use to communicate with my husband, Voxer, and even the weather—this last one is truly telling.  I wanted to limit my phone usage, but because it was right there where I could reach it, I kept grabbing it.  

By paying attention to what prompted each reach, I got a glimpse into my heart:

Tired of dealing with the kids? Grab the phone.

Lonely? Grab the phone.

Don’t feel like cleaning the bathroom?  Grab the phone.

Avoid, retreat, escape, neglect.  

What we reach for reveals our hearts.  Mine had grown lazy and was seeking satisfaction in the low-lying fruits of comfort, ease, and escape.

I know I’m not alone in this.  I received more replies after that email than I have in a long time.  Many confessed similar feelings and frustration over their phone habits.  While it’s helpful to remember others share our struggles, it’s also helpful to think through why so many of us have this tendency.

I won’t pretend to be an expert on phone usage; I haven’t studied all the research done on the brain and how our phones are changing us (although I’m reading Tony Reinke’s book, and have another in my stack).  But I can tell you this tendency to reach out and take hold of something within reach isn’t new.  And it’s not just limited to reaching for our phones.

People have been reaching for low-lying fruit since the beginning of time.  Eve, believing something better could be found aside from God’s words, looked and took hold of the forbidden fruit.  In her quest for knowledge and a desire to be like God, she grabbed the thing in front of her; it seemed more pleasing in the moment.  More immediately gratifying. More exciting and fulfilling than believing what God said.  

Unfortunately, we inherited this tendency to reach for low-lying fruit, and we’ve become quite good at it, often reaching to take hold without even thinking.  

We don’t want to deal with difficult circumstances, so we grab our phones to help drown out the chaos.  We’re lonely, so we login to our social media apps and seek to meet our need for belonging through virtual relationships.  We’re afraid, anxious, irritated, or overwhelmed, so we open the pantry door and mindlessly take hold of whatever sweet or salty pleasure we can find.  We grab the remote and drown out the reality of life by getting lost in someone else’s story. Sometimes, in an effort to satisfy unmet physical and emotional longings, we reach for what isn’t ours to have.  We literally touch, handle, grab, and hold onto that which is easily accessible to satisfy our cravings.

But we aren’t limited to reaching for tangible objects.  Low-lying fruit is often invisible, but just as readily available.

Overheard something?  Believe it without giving a second thought and spread the news around.  Gossip is easier—and might we say more delicious—than going to the source and finding out the truth.  Frustrated or angry with a friend? Stew about it, hold a grudge, and grow more bitter with every day.  Ignoring conflict is more comfortable than having a difficult conversation. Feeling insecure or undervalued?  Listen to culture’s cry to put ourselves first, say no to meeting others’ needs, and chase whatever makes us feel happy and fulfilled.  Pursuing our own success and worthiness feels more necessary than laying down our desires to love God and others first. Bored with the Bible?  It’s way less taxing on the mind to play a game on your phone, listen to a podcast, or escape in a novel than to meditate and study ancient words on the pages of Scripture.

I will be the first to admit: I’m guilty of many of these charges. 

But I’ll also be the first to tell you: low-lying fruit doesn’t satisfy our cravings.

Whatever it is we’re hoping to gain by taking hold of what’s in front of our faces might feel good in the moment, but in the end, it’s bitter.  Or just not enough. The cycle to gratify the cravings of our souls is endless. 

So what’s the cure? How do we resist the urge to grasp for temporary and easy fixes?

I don’t have a secret or magic formula to make it happen.  I already told you about what happened with my phone. And while I do occasionally throw away the half-eaten bag of M&M’s, remove Netflix from my weekly rhythm, and literally keep my mouth shut when I know about the rumors going on around me, the transformation necessary to resist low-lying fruit requires more than rules, boundaries, or cleaning out the pantry.

If what we reach for reveals our hearts, then in order to quit reaching for the wrong things, God must change our hearts. 

As I’ve been working through this in my own life, I keep returning to one simple question: Is God enough? 

I mean really.  Do we really believe God satisfies all of our longings?  He says he’s the living water, the bread of life, the way, the truth, and abundant life is found in him.  Not in this world.  Not in any of the ways we try to satisfy our souls.  Our efforts only lead to empty, dry cisterns which never satisfy (Jeremiah 2:13).    

So, if we believe he is who he says he is, believe he’s done all he said he would do, and believe he’s given us everything we need for life and godliness, then our hands, our hearts, and our minds will reach for him and his ways every time.

He’ll give us the desire to grab onto the way out he offers in the midst of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).  He will enable us to take hold of the weapons he’s provided for us to fight against the spiritual war raging in our soul (Ephesians 6:14-17).  Through the Spirit at work in us, we’ll be able to say with Paul, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12, NIV).  Namely, our eternal glory, the day when we get to see Jesus face-to-face.

As we continue to come to God in faith, through Jesus, he continues to transform us more into the image of his Son.  He changes our cravings so we crave him, his Word, and all the spiritual realities he’s given to us in Christ. He grows in us a deeper desire for holiness and purity in our thoughts and behaviors.  He makes us more excited and eager for heaven, the reality of which motivates us to live with our eyes fixed on eternity.  

On this side of eternity none of us will ever achieve perfection in our grasping.  But when we fail, which is inevitable, God will give us a desire to turn, repent, and live for satisfaction in him again.

As I continue to allow my own heart to be transformed, the most powerful truth I remember is this:  Jesus took hold of me and he’s never letting go.  

We might be tempted to reach and take hold of the low-lying fruits of pleasure, but God reached out and took hold of us for his own purpose.  For his own pleasure. No one can snatch us out of his hands. Nothing can separate us from his love. He’s holding us fast. And he’ll keep holding onto us until we stand before him one day, with our hands reaching out in praise and worship to the One who fully satisfies our souls. 

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