hunger

kathyescobar spiritual formation 11 Comments

“man does not live by bread alone.” luke 4:4

another week has flown by. it seems for some reason that the past few weeks have flashed by; if i slow them down a bit and think about all of the ins and outs of people and relationships and crises and traumas and dramas, i just have to laugh and chalk it up to an average couple of weeks in the life together in the refuge community.  but today, i’m longing for mexico. as i mentioned last week, i am a week behind on christine sine’s lenten guide.  this week for me was the journey into hunger.  in the material was a powerful challenge to feed your family for a week on$2 per person per day.  i was one of those people who from the beginning said “i just can’t do this right now.”  i don’t regret my decision, because it was a realistic one given our current situation.   what i did do, though, is really intentionally put all kinds of facets on “hunger” in the forefront of my mind.  it was an interesting week.

i was sharing last night at our house of refuge that that in the midst of thinking a lot about hunger and the $2 challenge and all kinds of other things related to food and the lack therof for so many people, i of course had one day where the only things i ate all day were:  2 poptarts, about 30 conversational hearts left over from valentine’s day, and a row of thin mint girl scout cookies. ugh! how pathetic.  but how telling.  i was painfully aware this whole past week of how much we have.  how much we waste.

another interesting conversation this week was with my 9 year old twins. i was done reading a story to them and asked them “what do you do when you’re hungry?” of course, they chimed together “eat!”

then i asked them “what do people in other poor countries do when they’re hungry?””  guess what they said?  “eat!” of course i immediately felt like a terrible parent who clearly has not done what i was supposed to teach my children properly about these kinds of things! but the truth is that regardless of how much we talk “kids starving in africa” they have no concept that there are people who really truly do not have food to eat, period.  of course they’ve heard us tell stories, have seen the american idol-in-africa stuff, and have helped us bring food to people who needed it.   but the truth is that they can’t get their little sweet heads around the reality that people truly would be hungry and not somehow get something to eat.

then i started thinking about some of my friends who don’t have resources, who live on the margins economically in every way possible.   they aren’t going to starve to death like they would if they lived in africa, but in reality when they are hungry, and don’t have enough money to buy food, here’s what they do to get it: pawn something, sell some prescription drugs to a few friends, trade a ride to the store for some groceries, don’t eat so the kids can.   and as i think about their reality then i start getting sad that there really is enough food even in our little poor community but it is so hard with us all spread out all over the place to share properly; i wish someone who was wildly passionate about intentionally sharing would swoop into our community & make it all magically happen for us.  and then i remember that is not how it usually works

so i switch gears and then begin to think about people living in poverty around the world and what they do when they are hungry.  they sell their bodies.  they sell their children into slavery.  they wait in lines for days for bags of rice that might get stolen from them on the way home.  they watch their children starve.  it is unthinkable that they are dying not from lack of resource, because the provision is indeed available, but from lack of proper distribution.

a couple of nights ago we talked about some of this at our house of refuge.  everyone there is not going to die from lack of food, at least at this point,  i am almost 100% certain.  but among all of us–to varying degrees–is a spiritual hunger, a desire for God. an emptiness, a thirst.   when i asked the question “so what are we supposed to do when we are spiritually hungry?” the first response was “eat chocolate ice cream!” (but he had already skipped to the next question unintentionally).  the answers were “go to God… read the Bible…connect with others…be still…spend time with God…pray…seek God…”

but then i asked the question, “what do we actually do when we are spiritually hungry?  what do we go to? “ here are our collective responses, at least the ones that we wrote down:

  • food
  • chocolate ice cream
  • a consuming focus on another person
  • do anything to not be alone
  • play spider solitaire for hours
  • watch scary movies
  • sleep
  • get busy
  • exercise (i wish i had that one!)
  • talk, chatter on cell phone
  • mindless TV watching/reading
  • isolate, disconnect
  • drink
  • control more

what would you add to the list?

mine is definitely work harder, stay busy, talk talk & more talk, get lost in the chaos, and start over the next day.  the truth is that all of these things do help fill something at least temporarily.  it’s not that they are all bad or all wrong or somehow don’t serve any good purpose.  the problem, though, is that ultimately they will not satisfy.  they are substitutes & will keep us distracted from the real thing. they leave us hungry.

isaiah is my favorite old testament book; so much beauty in there.  chapter 55 came to mind yesterday:

“Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. “(1-3a)

why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy. i think for me i have a weird natural tendency to avoid things that are really good for me.–including God.  i don’t like saying that out loud, but it sometimes feels true.  in subtle or sometimes direct ways i avoid seeking God, pursuing God, letting him satisfy me with good things, bring his wine and bread and milk and honey. honestly, i don’t want to make myself that vulnerable.

the biggest takeaway for me from wednesday’s conversation is the gap between what people can provide and the work of the Holy Spirit.  i have no doubt that God uses people.  real-life-in-the-flesh people to be God’s hands, feet, heart in all kinds of wacky and miraculous ways.   through people i am constantly encountering Jesus.  but at the same time, a gap exists that people can’t fill.  that is the quiet and mysterious and sometimes illusive work of the Spirit that can creep into the deepest cracks and satisfy like none other.

so that’s what i’m hungry for this lenten season.

* * * * *

ps:  we had a reflective time to write a psalm of hunger using this template i wrote as a guide.

we called it psalm 311 for march 11th.  here’s mine.  if you give it a try, let me know. i’d love to read it.

oh God, we need you. i need you.

my soul is hungry for your peace

but i keep filling myself with go and go and go and go and more go

these things never fully satisfy

they leave me empty

they leave me longing

they leave me hungry.

help me, God.

my stomach feels full, but my heart feels tired. weary. a little concerned that relief’s never coming.

fill me with your spirit.  alive, flowing into the places in my heart that are dry.  fill in the cracks.

feed me your truth.

fill my heart with your heart.

i see you at work in people i love.  people i struggle with.  people who are struggling with you.

in small miracles that i sometimes have to strain to see

in obvious ways i sometimes am blinded to

help me notice your spirit moving

help me be aware of your presence in the big & small things

o God, you are our God.

we need you.  i need you.

you and only you can satisfy my hungry soul.