112. Theology of the Body and the Healing of Compulsive Shopping

Dr. Brad Seeman has been using my book Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, & the Universal Longing in one of his courses at Taylor University, a popular evangelical Christian college. With his and his student’s permission, I’d like to share this email I recently received from Dr. Seeman. It provides a great example of how the Theology of the Body can help liberate us in all areas of our lives.

For this student, it was coming to understand the true nature of her (somewhat compulsive) love of shopping…

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Dear Christopher,

I continue to assign Fill These Hearts in my sections of Contemporary Christian Belief, the capstone general education course I teach. One of the assignments asks students to make a substantive connection between their experience and two of the five toughest questions Christians are asked. Many of the students … talk about your book in real depth. I could share any number of those, but here’s one that I found interesting because it made connections extending beyond sexuality:

[tweetthis]The Theology of the Body can help liberate us in all areas of our lives. – @cwestTOB[/tweetthis]

 

This material also stretched me in a way that I was not expecting it to. But before I get into how it did, let me give you some background information first: If you know me, you know that I absolutely love to shop. Anywhere. Everywhere. Always. It is a problem! … When [my boyfriend and my mother] saw how out of hand my love for shopping has gotten lately, they both decided to speak up (quite bluntly). However, it wasn’t until reading Fill These Hearts that the Lord really chose to speak to me.

I love how West addresses the sinful habits of our culture but instead of simply condemning them, he puts them into perspective as a direct result of the Fall. He talks about how we are creatures of longing, a longing that will never be satisfied until we are in God’s presence for all of eternity. I could not have put it better than when he writes, “It is a constant ongoing search, driven by a mad desire and an unquenchable thirst that haunts us and never quits” (56). Yet, West does not tell us to rule out our desires as bad or to repress, ignore, or otherwise annihilate them (16). Instead, he states, “The ideal is for us not to control our appetites at all, but to allow them full rein in the wake of an uncontrolled appetite for God” (47).

When put into this perspective, God allowed me to understand where my love of shopping was coming from. I am a creature who loves and longs for beauty—and that is a good desire, a desire that comes straight from our God! However, it is a misplaced desire that will never be satisfied [through shopping]. This book helped me understand that my true desire is for God because He is beauty and is the source of all beauty. Therefore, I now have a new prayer: “To learn how to aim [my] desire according to God’s design so [I] can arrive at [my] eternal destiny” (86). I am so thankful that West did not simply condemn my love and passion for beauty because of the misplaced way I have been seeking it. He helped me understand that instead of trying to avoid this desire, to indulge in my longing for beauty by seeking it from our God, the only satisfying source.

Overall, this material was my favorite material of the entire class. It reached the depths of my heart in a way that I was completely unsuspecting and helped me understand how to better quench my longing for Beauty—in Him.

A lot of students talk about how your work is healing their understanding of themselves as embodied beings – quite a number of them sorting through searing pain and confusion – and I thought you might find it encouraging to hear about how our Lord is using Fill These Hearts.

God bless you and your family.

Brad

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Question: If you have a story of how learning about the Theology of the Body has helped you understand your true desires, please share it on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Creative Commons