Selfish Desires in Children and Formation in Natural Love
Towards our earthly mother's and father's it is wrong to be needy. Yet children naturally posses an inherent desire to want and demand things they need, and eventually as they grow things they want (i.e. that special toy in the shop). This is a consequence of original sin and an effect wrought by it which inclines the human will to almost demand what it needs and wants. Such needy desires are relatively normal; and expressing them is initially beneficial since through them the parent comes to know when the child is hungry or when it is hurt or when it is scared etc. Through conditioning the child grows in maturity and strength of will to be less demanding and self-centred. Yet this conditioning or formation must occur through parents who will teach their children how to be other-focused and thus be rendered sociable and disposed to virtue. A common example of this is when a mother says to her child: "now what do you sayyyy?", with the child responding "thank youuuu". Such a process is required because the child must be trained in being one who loves, that is one who has developed a concern for others. After all, the primary purpose of saying "thank you" is for the edification of the other. Yet this awareness of the other and natural human love must be formed in the child; since due to original sin human beings have lost the aptitude (competency) to be selfless in a love which seeks not the gratification of self-desires or ones own will but the will of the other, that is the will of ones neighbour.
Selfless Desires in God's Children and Trans-Formation in Divine Love
It is taught that there can be attributed to the human person two natures, a first nature and a second nature. The first nature constitutes the essential humanness of a person, and being made in the image of God; and thus refers to the body and soul, with all their corresponding faculties. The second nature constitutes the acquired habits of a person and being made in the likeness of God. So when it is said that grace builds upon nature, it is meant that the first nature of the human person remains the same, whilst the second nature grows and develops by God's grace. Of course these two natures must be viewed as interconnected within the human person as an individual being. Thus we can view first nature as the foundation stone; second nature the structure which is built upon it, and the building in its entirety, the whole human person. For the structure (second nature) to be renewed is for the whole building (human person) to be renewed, including the foundation stone (first nature) which remains essentially the same naked stone but is renewed accidentally in the clothing of the structure upon it.
Before the Fall man's second nature was Divine in the sense that his very being was totally infused with the Divine Will and Love of God. However after the Fall, though man's first nature remained the same (image of God), he lost his Divine second nature (his likeness to God) along with the countless Celestial Desires and Virtues that came with it. Even after the Fall however man still possessed a natural inclination to the good; since this natural inclination or primary desire for the good is of man's first nature. So although man since the Fall is still inclined towards the good in his first nature, his second nature has been corrupted by sin, and thus though his primary desire is towards the good, his secondary desires towards evil dominate the thrust of his search for good. It is thus that man seeks the good, the happiness, the truth, the pleasure and fulfilment in finite and created things; as opposed to in God. Reflect on ones past and look around at those in the society in which we live. All thirst for God who is Good, Happiness, Truth etc. yet they seek Him in places where He is not; and thus they turn finite things (i.e. wealth) and finite experiences (i.e. pleasure, travelling etc) into a god. Examples of this include people who are highly promiscuous: they seek happiness and love, for they seek God by virtue of their first nature; yet due to their second nature which is filled with sinful desires, they lead themselves astray in idolatry by submitting their primary desire for God to their secondary desires for sin. Of course most sinners do not know that they seek God; since only those sinners who have come to self-knowledge come to understand that all their desires were vain attempts to fill the infinite void of hunger for God within, with anything and anyone but God.
We could say that in ones first nature one has the infinite hunger for God and the Food of His Will which is Love and Mercy itself. Before the Fall man through his Divinely infused and grace filled second nature, possessed this Food within himself; since God lived within him. Yet after the Fall man's second nature was emptied of all grace, and was thus emptied of the Food of Divine Will. So whilst man still held an infinite desire for God and the Food of His Will; he lost the possession of such Food along with the knowledge, wisdom and understanding required in order to have access to it and to know it, to posses it and to taste and enjoy it. 'Twas thus that man roamed the earth in search of a food that could satisfy; but his own hands could not supply that for which he craved. The food of idols left man empty. Yet still he creates and crafts new idols each and every day in the vain hope of tasting a food which can satisfy; a food which no hand except God in Jesus Christ can supply.
God through Baptism restores us to His likeness in Christ Jesus; and it is thus that God cleanses the grime off of our second nature and therefore restores the entire person in the state of sanctifying grace. Furthermore through baptism God infuses into the soul the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. Through faith we gain access to and come to know how to find God and the Food of His Will; through hope we come to posses God and the Food of His Will; and through love we come to taste and enjoy God and the Food of His Will. At first the soul is as a newborn child in God's grace, inclined to imperfect love; since it seeks God for the sake of self; it possess God for the sake of self; and tastes and enjoys God for the sake of self. It is thus that in the beginning of the spiritual life one is like a needy child of God, yet the reason this neediness is an imperfect love is because it is a neediness for the sake of the self. Such a soul is thus more in love with the gifts of God (i.e. consolations in prayer) as opposed to God Himself.
Yet as the soul advances by God's grace, eventually ones second nature is not just restored to His likeness in Jesus but grows into the fullness of likeness in Jesus. Accompanied by this spiritual growth is the soul's transformation in the likeness of God's Love, which renders the soul increasingly apt in selfless love. It is in this development therefore, that the soul through faith comes to know and seek God and the Food of His Will, not for the sake of the self but for the sake of God in giving Him glory; and by extension for the sake of others in the salvation of souls. Likewise through hope the soul desires to possess God for the sake of God's delight and for the sake of giving, as it were, God to her neighbours. And through love she desires to taste and enjoy God only so that God may taste and enjoy Himself, and so that her neighbours may taste and enjoy God. Such a soul thus comes to increasingly pray out of genuine selfless love for God; and this intrinsically involves love for ones neighbour. Such a soul would therefore be considered a needy child of God, but needy not for the sake of oneself, but for the sake of seeking to appeasing a God who Himself thirsts and hungers for love more than we! For what thirst can compare to the thirst of God made flesh in Christ Jesus, who exclaimed on the Cross: "I thirst!" (Jn 19:28)? Surely our thirst for God who is Infinite Love, is but a seed planted within us as human beings. As we grow in God's Likeness, we shall come to grow in God's Thirst, and this is to grow in thirst for Love.
The Call to Be a Needy Child of God
The directing of ones neediness or ones hunger towards created people, experiences and things arises from a corrupt second nature; that leads the thirsty and hungry soul astray towards waters that will not quench and satisfy. Ones inherent neediness once misdirected, thus becomes perverted and effects an evil; for it causes one to seek self-satisfaction whilst being antithetical to love as selflessness and otherness. However a restored second nature infused with God's Will and grace, leads the thirsty and hungry soul towards the Eternal Waters and Food of God's Love and Mercy. It is thus that by God's grace ones inherent neediness and hunger for God who is Good, Happiness, Truth, Love etc. can be satisfied; since in properly directing ones neediness to its origin and source in God, the soul is thus led to God and is satisfied by Him.
It is thereby false to live out the spiritual life as if it consisted in repressing ones desires. For beneath the maligned secondary desires that lie within us and lead us to sin; are the good primary desires that seek God in His multiplicity and greatness.
For example: The remedy to seeking intimacy through sexual lust, thus lies not in trying to repress the desire for intimacy; but rather in seeking to fulfill ones desire for intimacy by striving to be intimate with God in a relationship of prayer and servitude. This is because the root cause of such a sin is not the desire for intimacy itself, for this is a primary desire which is good. Rather the root cause of such a sin lies in the will's attachment and enactment of the desire to sexual lust. It is thus that the remedy to sexual lust as perverted intimacy, lies in affirming the will in its desire for intimacy, yet in good intimacy, intimacy with God. This affirmation of the will in goodness is what brings about the negation from sin. For the will cannot choose to do evil as such; since evil is a privation (of good) as opposed to a reality. It is therefore more precise to say that the will can choose either 'for good' or 'against good', as opposed to 'for good' or 'for evil'. In this regards one does not overcome sin by routinely choosing against sin 'directly' (which is really to choose against sin indirectly), but by routinely choosing for God (Goodness) which is to 'indirectly' choose against sin (which is really to choose against sin directly).
Let us not try to will against evil by choosing against sin and by repressing our maligned desires; but rather let us try to will for good by choosing God and by affirming our good desires. This is the difference between walking the imperfect road of sanctification and the perfect road. Allow me to quote our Lord's words to St. Maria Faustina; words which say very briefly what I have failed to even touch upon within an entire novel:
“Let souls who are striving for perfection particularly adore My mercy, because the abundance of graces which I grant them flows from My mercy. I desire that these souls [that’s us] distinguish themselves by boundless trust in My mercy. I myself will attend to the sanctification of such souls. I will provide them with everything they will need to attain sanctity [, to become saints]. The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is-trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive. Souls that trust boundlessly are a great comfort to me, because I pour all the treasures of My graces into them. I rejoice much that they ask for much, because it is My desire to give much, very much. On the other hand, I am sad when souls ask for little, when they narrow their hearts.” (Divine Mercy in My Soul, 1578).
Beyond the complexities which I have failed to articulate well in any sense, what this all means is that we must not seek to become less needy, but rather let us seek to become more needy, but needy for God. Let us avoid placing our neediness as a heavy yoke upon the shoulders of others; expecting them to be God when God alone is God. "My yoke is easy and my burden light" says the Lord; because His neediness for us is not oppressive like the neediness of creatures which makes life hard and burdensome; for it freeing and liberating. For in the Divine Neediness of His Love, we do not need to meet conditions, since His love is unconditional. All we need to do is accept such Divine Love, which is the Food we all truly crave for; yet which we can only consume through the longing hunger of desire for God. This is to desire to live in His Will, and to feast upon It in the Blessed Sacrament in Holy Communion and Eucharistic Adoration. Let the words of our Lady descend into your heart: "the rich he has sent away empty, but the hungry he has filled with good things." And the words of our Lord: "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill. (Mt 5:6) And what does this mean, to hunger and thirst after justice? Well justice concerns that which is fair and deserved, thus it is to hunger and thirst for God at the elevated spiritual level of not just wanting God but of desperately needing Him. This perfect desire of neediness for God lies deep within each soul; yet God's Loving Touch is needed in order to set it ablaze.
And Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life. He that cometh to me shall not hunger: and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.