By: Chalice Overy

Originally printed in Prostitutes & Tax Collectors

A few days ago, I was attending an interfaith service at my church. We heard teachings from a Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith leaders and participated in some aspect of the prayer traditions of each. After each faith leader spoke, the congregation was asked to share something with one or two people that they did not know. The Christian minister asked us to talk about what our hearts were longing for. I knew the answer as soon as she asked the question. I’m 37, single, and have never been married. Right now, more than anything, my heart longs for love.

I was invited into a group of two other women, and I let them speak first. When it was my turn, I simply said “Love”. With no explanation or elaboration, I voiced the deepest desire of my heart at that moment.

As I reflected on it, I realized that this honest and simple response represented a great deal of maturation for me. I got pretty serious about my faith when I was 14, and in my faith community I was consistently taught that my desires were bad. Anything that I wanted proceeded out of the sinful desires of my flesh. These desires had to be laid aside if I was truly going to deny myself and follow after Jesus. Instead of embracing and pursuing the desires of my heart, I was encouraged to learn and pursue the desires of God’s heart–to long for spiritual fruits, eat my fill and learn how to be satisfied.

As a young Christian, I was intentional about bringing my desires in subjection to God’s desires. I immersed myself in church life. I was there every time the doors opened. If I desired to go somewhere on a Sunday morning, afternoon or Thursday night (Bible study), I denied myself and went to church. If I wanted to take a nap or watch TV after school, I denied myself until I had finished my devotional time of prayer and scripture reading. On Fridays, I fasted to practice self-denial so that when I was tempted to “gratify the desires of my flesh”, it wouldn’t be so hard for me to resist. I was building up m