I’ve written before about my past struggles with eating and body image. One of the most valuable lessons I learned through this issue, though, is this: The starving man (or woman) does not always know that he is hungry.
When hunger is ignored long enough, it may manifest itself in anger, brain fog, fatigue, apathy, sadness, etc. Alternately, there may be an odd sort of exhilaration in not eating for long periods of time, just as sometimes a lack of sleep makes us loopy before it makes us faint.
Well, I’ve been eating bountifully and nutritiously lately. Still, I was experiencing moments of irritability and a prevailing sense of discontent. Why?
Each morning, I carry my Bible and journal downstairs to breakfast—the same balanced breakfast I have eaten for nearly a decade. And each morning, while I consume this familiar meal with remarkable regularity, I proceed to pick half-heartedly at the deeper food also set before me. While I rarely struggle with food issues now and am attuned to my body’s hunger, I am ironically slow to recognize when I am in need of Spiritual nourishment. (Not a great trait for someone in ministry, I know, but God is working on me very intensely and patiently.)
After weeks of this peckish devotional diet, I finally began to notice that my spiritual life was bearing the signs of extreme hunger. I was barely writing or journaling; my words came slowly and laboriously. I practiced without much focus, skimming through hymns I ought to have cherished. I was not unhappy, but a sense of restlessness pervaded my work and routines. Past the point of mere hunger, I no longer recognized what it was that my body and soul needed; I was—if you will—spiritually hangry.
And that’s when Providence lovingly force-fed me. I was discussing scripture journaling with someone I love and respect, and he presented me with some practical tools to use in my own devotions. It was as if I’d been sitting at a feast for weeks without a fork and, finally, someone gave me the proper utensils to enjoy my meal again.
Armed once more with a scripture plan and a checklist, I dove back in, and, within moments, I realized how starved I’d been for this intentional time in the Word. Although I attend and/or work several church services per week, read theological books often, and discuss doctrine with passion, I had been neglecting the devotional study that feeds and fuels these activities. As I tucked back into a scripture-reading plan, I had vivid flashbacks to my teen years—to when I would finally take a bite of food and only then realize how incredibly self-deprived I’d been.
The starving man does not always know that he is hungry. The hangry woman does not always know what she needs. More necessary even than the bread that satisfied my body’s cravings is the Bread of Life and the Living Water, enjoyed afresh each morning through the nourishment of the Word that never goes stale and certainly never runs dry.
“So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”Deuteronomy 8:3
“But [Jesus] answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”Matthew 4:4