I’m excited to announce my new book: The Hunger Inside: How the Meal Jesus Gave Transforms Lives, coming out with Paraclete Press on April 5!
The Hunger Inside was a labor of love, a map of my own breadcrumb trail to the Lord’s table, a dive through Scripture and story into the depth and mystery of the meal Jesus gave.
Here’s a short excerpt adapted from chapter 1:
The late, great Orthodox priest, Alexander Schmemann wrote that “Behind all the hunger of our life is God. All desire is finally a desire for him” (For the Life of the World, p.14). Human beings are hungry beings. Homo esuriens. Hungry man. You can forget the sapiens if we haven’t had breakfast.
Unmet hunger is a scandalous thing. It makes itself known. Take the Conscientious Objectors in World War II who volunteered for the famous “Minnesota Starvation Experiment.” The men endured a semi-starvation diet for one year to test the effects on victims of famine. They experienced depression, apathy, and anger towards those who had enough to eat. One participant satisfied his hunger vicariously by entering a donut shop and buying dozens of donuts to hand out to children and watch them savor the treat. On concluding the study, one man had to go to the hospital to have his stomach pumped because he had eaten too much. Others reported difficulties in feeling full (see Kalm and Semba, “They Starved So That Others Might Be Fed”).
We claim our hungers. We define ourselves by our hungers. I’m the a guy who likes black coffee and fried seafood and wedges of thick-crusted wheat bread sweating butter and honey. I can do without bananas. We call these things our “tastes,” and I suppose that most of the time claiming our hungers like this is perfectly harmless. After all, God created the world good and all foods received in thanksgiving to the Creator are good and holy, what Schmemann called “divine love made food.”
But sometimes too, our hungers are disordered and lead us astray. There are the usual bugaboos—life’s broad screen flickering violence and mammon, eating and drinking and being merry for tomorrow we die. Define ourselves by these hungers, and we become fanged and vampiric. Our hungers end up leading us down dangerous back alleys, and we become dangerous too, destroying and dehumanizing.
Where does such a disordered life lead? The consequences are predictable enough. Paul said simply, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Everything will be sucked into the black hole. But oh, the varied paths! Each unhappy person is unhappy in his or her own way.
But if hunger can lead us astray and dehumanize us, so too hunger can draw us back to God and become the starting place for leading a more fully human life. Think of Jesus’s story in Luke 15. Misguided hungers led the prodigal out to the far country. There, he frittered away his money until he hit pig-pod bottom. He was alone, without identity or place or funds, scrounging for a future and finding only a curled hunger within him. But then it was hunger that brought the prodigal son to his senses. Jesus said he “came to himself,” and the memory of the abundance of his father’s table spurred him onto the road back home (Luke 15:17).