“I’m too hungry!”
This is a declaration I often hear from my 5 year old, usually at the end of the day when dinner time isn’t coming fast enough. It is such a strong feeling for her that everything she knows she’s capable of doing, like walking, ceases to be possible. She will even drop to the floor as if she had been wandering through the desert for days without food and water and look up with this face of “I can’t do it any more! I’m too hungry to move!” While this is quite comical to read, and the first few times she did this were also a little funny, it slowly became habitual and of course, as good parents, we have not permitted it to go on and are working to help her correct this behavior. We acknowledge that she’s hungry and then remind her that she does have to walk and that we of course are going to get her food to nourish her body.
Its amazing how life, especially with my children, intersects with spiritual truths.
When my babies were babies, they couldn’t talk and tell me how hungry they were. They would cry or reach for food on their own, when they got older and could do sign language they communicated a little bit better, but for the most part, it was entirely up to us to figure out when they needed to be fed and then to provide them with that food.
When I was a “baby Christian” the same was true of me with God. I didn’t know how to find what I needed to fill my spirit and I didn’t know how to ask God for help or how to recognize His voice when I was feeling discouraged or angry or needed wisdom about the next step to take (1 Peter 2:2-3). The Father faithfully made Himself available to me in so many ways, things I didn’t even know at the time were helping me and “feeding” me. I regularly attended church and most days I read the Bible. I also listened to good Christian music that encouraged and strengthened my spirit, read Christian novels that contained messages of truth relating to God’s Word, creative outlets like drawing and writing that I was able to use to express both my needs and my adoration, and I had relationships with people who loved me, lovingly challenged me, and taught me how to apply godly principles. The Father lovingly and graciously provided all of this “food” to me so that I could grow and not be “too hungry”.
As my babies have grown, they have become more able to wait for mealtimes but also more able to get food on their own. My five year old can get snacks from the fridge like yogurt, cheese, fruit, bread – easy stuff that doesn’t require any cooking. My ten year old however can do a bit more like make sandwiches and cereal and even cook eggs or mac ‘n cheese. As they have grown, we have taught them how to find and make food on their own and they have also asked to learn with us when we’re cooking.
As I have grown with God, I can look back and see similar seasons where I’ve learned how to find and go after my own spiritual food. Through church services and special events like youth camp, vacation Bible school, Bible study groups, etc. The Father has taught me how to pay attention to the whispers of His still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13), how to seek Him first (Matthew 6:33), how to worship with literally everything in me (1 Samuel 6:14), how to study the Bible so that I can understand the rich morsels He has placed there (Colossians 1:9-12), and most importantly how to pray – how to talk to Him, to communicate with Him about my needs and my joys, my concerns and my greatest appreciation and admiration (Matthew 6:5-34). I have grown from being entirely dependent on God just putting things in front of me, to depending on God to provide the ingredients so that I can eat and drink full meals that we make together. I still have a long way to go before I’m cooking up gourmet dishes to feast on with my kingdom family, but The Father is such a patient Teacher. He always provides the best ingredients, making the food rich, healthy, and perfect for my soul. From time to time I stay out of the kitchen a little too long and start to feel my spirit grumble. I sometimes walk up to The Father and say “Daddy, I’m so hungry, I’m starving for more!” (Psalm 42:1-2) And He so graciously reminds me He’s never left me to fend for myself and points me in the direction of the ingredients (the Bible, worship music, prayer) and sometimes even starts pulling things out of the pantry (a new song, a scripture I’d forgotten, a short text message from a loving person). He places them in my hands and we begin cooking together again.
There is also a bit of caution that we have to take as parents, that our children don’t just eat sugary sweets and carbs all day, but that we provide and even insist on healthy food like broccoli, carrots, proteins, etc. If I don’t have healthy foods in the house, they can’t eat them. If I don’t provide a way for each of them to get these healthy foods at their individual skill level, they will reach for the un-healthy foods every single time, and it never satisfies them. They are still hungry.
The same is true for me and the food my spirit needs. The “mountain top” worship experiences or sermons or special events or miracles are so amazing and are a stark reminder to me of the distinct power of God, however they are not the only food I need. I have to eat daily – not weekly or monthly. When I wait until Sunday church services to receive from The Father, I only get a little bit and while it is really good, it doesn’t satisfy me, it doesn’t keep me full all week long. When I experience a great sermon or conference or witness a miracle, the wonder and amazement of that lasts for a little while, but just like a sugary or carb-loaded snack doesn’t keep my body full and satisfied, neither do those encounters with God keep my spirit full and satisfied. They are good and useful for encouraging me and reminding me of God’s goodness, but by themselves, they don’t build up my spiritual muscles. The Father daily provides experiences and truth for my spiritual and eternal health and growth, but I have to use them for that. (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-5) They don’t always “taste” as good as the thrilling, emotional experiences – in fact sometimes its like choking down kale – but ultimately it brings greater joy and satisfaction and the best of all, growth in holiness. This holiness I’m growing up in is The Father’s greatest and best for me.