The bottom line is that it all comes down to one thing; our hungers. What, you say? Ummmmm, life, it all comes down to our hungers. We are influenced, and shaped and formed and driven by our hungers. Heaven knows that we have a variety of them and in our “modern” society the hungers seem to be gaining on us at warp speed. We have hungers here and now, in the 21st century, which never even existed as little as twenty years ago. Look around the culture, it teaches us to be hungry for ; cell phones, I-phones, HD, laptops, wireless, designer labels, designer food, five dollar coffee, serial relationships, babies adopted from foreign lands, tattoos, mariageless relationships, anonymous disposable friendships, face book, tweeting, partying, gossip, status, oil, money, power, love, acceptance. Some of these are “old school” but it seems that hungers shape our current world in a way that they never have before. It’s not that the human race has never had hungers, but we now have so many that are “out there” for all to see, measure, judge, compare. My observation is that as society fails over and over again to slake one hunger, it simply develops another to “replace” the old which was never satisfied in the first place. We stumble from hunger to hunger with hardly a pause.
The idea of a driving hunger is not a new one. Cain killed Able because he craved the approval that God gave his brother instead of himself. That was really the beginning of it all. Hunger is perhaps the most fundamental characteristic of incarnation both on a physical and spiritual level. Without physical food we die, without spiritual food, life is unbearable. From the earliest presence of man on the planet, understanding our hungers and what to do with them has been problematic. In an odd sort of metaphor, we must note that during one of the first appearances of the resurrected Jesus he asks the dumbfounded disciples; “Have you anything here to eat?” (Lk 24:41). In an precursor of a like teaching we should also remember that he tells the woman at the well: “Give me a drink.” (Jn 4:7) God Himself experiencing hunger and thirst, you can’t get more incarnational than that. The very fact that God is seen to experience hunger and thirst clearly shows us that neither of these desires is a bad thing, but a fact of life while being human. The problem is not in the hunger itself, but what we do with it.
In the short run, any hunger is really a metaphor. While it is true that we need actual food and drink to satisfy physical needs, hungers permeate our humanness on more than one level. I bet you’ve heard something like: “I have everything I ever wanted, but I’m just not happy.” or “I just know there’s something more”. Maybe you’ve said or had these thoughts yourself? Huger is really an expression of the “want” to fulfill an unspeakable desire. Augustine so elegantly summed it up: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” The unnamable hunger that everyone expresses in one way or another is really the desire to have relationship with the one who made us. We are all attracted to the unknown in a way so deep that we can’t even articulate it. Some of us are more or less able to put our finger on this “disturbance” in our soul. Others just do our best to ignore the fact that it is even there, but like gravity the longing will express itself in one way or another whether we want it to or not. You can “pretend” that a chasm isn’t ahead of you, but you will still fall if you do not account for its presence. The other side of that same coin is that the Creator desires to have relationship with us and to have us freely accept His love in a mutual exchange. No one knows us better or loves us more. The energy in that is unstoppable and is present in our soul from the instant we become incarnate. The relationship between human parent and child is a dim echo of that and is the same kind of “indescribable”. We want our parents to love/like us just because they are our parents. No one teaches that to us, it is simply “there” for our entire lives. Interestingly enough, this desire exists whether our parents were the loveable type or not. Even children of the most horrendous home situations still want their parents’ love and approval.
So how do we slake a hunger that is so very human and yet indescribable and unsolvable on a human level? It’s not as complicated as one might imagine. Jesus himself gave us the “key” and all the information that we would ever need to address this dilemma. Hunger is not a foreign concept to him or the Jews either for that matter. Remember that one of the Israelites chief complaints while in the dessert was that they did not like the food. Moses brings this problem to God and in a move of compassion He grants them food in the morning and the evening that is unlike anything they have ever had. Manna in the desert: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (Jn 6:33) Remember also that a chief concern of Jesus himself at the feeding of the five thousand was that the people would faint because they did not have anything to eat after three days of following him.
So this experience of hunger is one that God and Jesus himself are very familiar with. It is clear that this very human, incarnate experience is not simply passed off by the Son of God as something mundane or unimportant because it “should be” a matter of discipline or self control. Human hunger is a matter of the very nature of man himself. Jesus understands that and in a statement which offers both answer and solution he sums it all up: “So they said to Jesus, ‘Sir, give this bread always.’ Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (Jn 6:35) In an earlier echo of the same monumental promise he also told the woman at the well: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn 4: 13-14)
What could be more human than hunger and thirst? These are basic energies that we are born with. We can use them to drive us to great and generous accomplishment or misdirect those same forces to cause ourselves misery of every kind. Jesus does not note the negative aspect of our humanness but rather shows us that through our very personhood, all solution and goodness and eternal satisfaction is ours. He delivers the ultimate gift from our loving Father. There is nothing wrong with our hungers. But when they drive us to behaviors that eliminate God and focus on self we can create a recipe for disaster. Humanness is a gift. We need to practice being human in the illuminating light of Jesus’ perspective.
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Copyright © 2011, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved.
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