Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hunger... (and learning I don't need to be a scavenger)

Being a mother of six means that life can be fairly hectic at times, as we are a family that enjoys a moderate amount of extracurricular activities such as gymnastics and music lessons. So if you take a moderate amount of activities multiplied by a large amount of kids, it equals a lot of running around and crazy days!

Monday night was no exception, and I found myself waiting in the van for my oldest kids while they attended a monthly group piano lesson. The only problem is, I was famished! Okay, not truly famished, (because I often tell my kids that they don't comprehend the literal meaning of that word) but I felt pretty darn hungry! I knew we would have supper waiting for us at home, but I had just worked out at the gym while the kids were in swimming lessons, and now I had to wait for 45 minutes until this class was over and we could go home and eat.

For some reason my stomach felt much more empty than normal, and was grumbling loudly. I tried to distract myself with a book, but even the suspenseful story wasn't working. I rummaged in my purse and noticed some Halls left over from a cold I had the week before. Hmmm.... sugary and temporarily satisfying. I felt a little dishonest having a Halls without a sore throat, so I gave a weak, fake cough and figured there was enough "cold" left in me to merit eating one.

Sadly, the Halls lasted a mere 5 minutes, and within minutes after that, I realized I was still hungry. Apparently sugar and menthol have no tummy-filling abilities. Considering I was in a mini-van that was continually filled with children traveling to and fro, I thought I would search around and perhaps find a stay granola bar or cookie. I first looked in the glove box and saw a round, whitish object; just the size of a sugar cookie. Score! I grabbed it and immediately sensed that something was wrong. This "cookie" was extremely hard and probably inedible. If indeed it had ever been a cookie, it was now mummified. I then noticed the etchings of a child's initials across the surface and remembered that this was no cookie! It was a craft my kids had made many months ago, with salt-clay. Yuck!

Since there was nothing more than leftover crafts, an emergency diaper, insurance papers and other random junk in the glove box, I had to get more adventurous in my search. I began to shovel through the children's debris that layered the van's floor. (Yes, I admit it! Our van tends to be on the messy side.) As I pushed papers and books and bags aside, I saw a take-out menu for Papa John's. My mouth began to water as I gazed at the tantalizing pizzas. Sadly, this was no time for ordering take out... it probably wouldn't arrive before the lesson was over, anyway!

In the next few moments, I discovered many potentially edible objects. There was half of a stale, dried out blueberry bagel; a shriveled up piece of an orange; a mini-container of margarine in a bag that had held a muffin from the McDonald's drive-thru; and then the obviously inedible: a blackened, shriveled-up, slightly slimy banana peel. YUCK! I even found my husband's empty can of cherry coke in the cup-holder of the van, but when I tried to shake the last drops into my mouth, I discovered that they had dried to a thick syrup, coating the bottom of the can. Okay... this was not working out very well!

I then realized I was not so desperate to eat food off of the floor of our van. Who am I kidding though - it's not just about desperation - it would be more like making myself a human test subject for breaking the record of how long food can be on the floor and still be safe to eat! (You know, like the the "5-second-rule"). I was back in my purse again, with my hand hovering over the Halls. Nah.... Then I found my Maple Sugar Liplicous Tasty Lip Color and decided to put some on. The mouthwatering artificial aroma drifted up to my nose and I'll admit, I licked some off of my lips just like my 5 year old would do and ate some!

When it became firmly established in my mind that there was nothing I could eat in the van, I settled on being patient and waiting the last 25 minutes or so until my kids would be done their lesson. There was real food at home... and I wasn't truly famished. This did however get me to thinking about the nature of hunger and cravings. Hunger is an all-consuming drive. We as humans cannot survive for more than about 40 days without food (and that is at risk to damaging some of your organs and causing your body to break down tissue -your muscles- in effort to keep other vital systems running). Most people can't go a full day without feeling quite hungry, and we in North America are so used to feeding our faces whenever we have the slightest sense of perceived "hunger".

The dictionary defines hunger as "a strong or compelling desire or craving". We can certainly relate this to food, but the idea of hunger can be applied to many other areas of our lives. I began to wonder what I hunger for in life. How much do I hunger for God? I asked myself these questions and began to ponder the longings deep in my heart.

I know that deep down, I hunger for love and acceptance. I need this more than anything else in life - in fact, there have been times in my life where I didn't feel secure and loved and this affected my physical appetite. My hunger for love was greater than my hunger for food. I also hunger to know that my life and my kids' lives are going to turn out. That we'll make it through the gauntlet of child-raising and family life and come out successful on the other side. So in actuality, this tells me I'm longing for peace and knowing that God is going to take care of us.

Knowing that these are my driving needs and *hungers* in life, tell me that deep down what I'm hungry for is God. He is the one who can satisfy these deep longings in my life, and give me peace and security related to these needs. By knowing Him and entrusting my fears to Him, I would learn that He does want to take care of me. I would know Him and be secure.

I remember as a child, being told the illustration that there is a "God-shaped-hole" in each of us. We can spend our entire lives searching for things to fill that space in our heart, but only a relationship with God will satisfy that hunger. It seems that the things I long for most can easily be satisfied by learning to be satisfied in God. The more I get to know Him, the more I realize He is concerned with my entire life - my emotions, my family, my marriage. To top it all off, He created me to naturally be hungry for the hope and security and peace that He offers. I can try to quench the hunger with other things, but they are temporary and artificial at best.

Psalm 63: 1-5 talks about a longing, desperation and hunger that is satisfied by seeking God:

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

We spend much of our lives with a sense of need; a hunger, really, for something that isn't satisfied by anything on earth. We commit ourselves to seek after intellectual pursuits or emotional attachments or even physical food to satisfy a hunger and longing that is like a bottomless pit. When you read Isaiah 55:1-3a, you get a pretty clear image of our fruitless attempts to fill our human longings:

"Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water! Are you penniless? Come anyway - buy and eat! Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk. Buy without money - everything's free! Why do you spend your money on junk food, your hard-earned cash on cotton candy? Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest. Pay attention, come close now, listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words." (The Message)

It's easy to get caught up pursing what will only temporarily satisfy. Too often, you can coast along in life and keep yourself going on "junk food", only to find out that when a crisis occurs, or you go through a particularly trying season in life, you just don't have the endurance required. However, by filling up on the right things; by filling up with what God provides, the hunger is quenched and you can be sustained through the most adverse trials. What God gives ensures that you don't have to walk through your life feeling like something is missing - you don't have to struggle with a sense of lack.

We can be filled; we can be satisfied! We don't have to go through life hungry and feeling the ache of longing inside our hearts. Best of all, everything's free - this is a gift from a loving, compassionate Father who cares deeply about you. Why would you bother scrounging the floor of the mini-van when this extravagant gift is offered to you?

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