Being super hungry most of the time changes your perception of EVERYTHING.
For me, it’s like having a permanent pair of sunglasses and ear plugs being slowly removed.
I normally go about my business happily most days, but when the first hunger signals start to buzz in my brain, I look forward to being able to quiet them ASAP—even if they are just signals saying that I’m not actually hungry, just not STUFFED any longer from my previous meal!
Somehow I’ve been conditioned to think of them as WARNINGS that something bad will happen if I don’t tend to them and make them go away. I suppose there is some healthy conditioning in eating when you get hungry (!), but in our culture today, there is so little gap time between the early signals and the quick satiation of the hunger, we don’t really get to feel real hunger any more as the Sensory Intensifier that it is. Let me explain.
Last night, as I was about to break my fast at sunset with the iftar meal, I realized that I wanted to use a prayer to do it. Mostly I’ve just picked up a spoon or fork and grinned as the hour arrived, but my hunger pangs no longer frighten me like they did. I knew I truly would feel fine if I didn’t eat last night at all, so I wasn’t in the rush to break fasting—my heart was full to bursting with the intensity of life I was feeling and I wanted to express it.
Whatever we are feeling is natural to want to share with whom we believe is the source of those feelings, and so I realized I needed to pick up my pen to share with God, and what came out will likely be my evening prayer until it needs to be replaced with something else:
Thank you, Lord, for the delight of keen anticipation.
Thank you for clean, fresh food of such variety; for the ability to revel in its taste.
For the sunshine and rain that nurtured it; those who tended it; the insects that pollinated it, and those who harvested and shipped it to my table.
For the animals whose innocent lives were given that others’ bodies may be given strength for the journey.
For the warmth of this dry room as I pick up my spoon to begin this daily pleasure offered to me by your hand.
May my own giving be as extravagant.
And then I wept as I placed a fresh raspberry in my mouth. I have never had that experience before while eating, but deep gratitude is such a sensory intensifier.
This morning I finished eating just before sunrise (more later about how I’ve discovered I’m supposed to be finished by DAWN, not SUNRISE—OOPS), and I knew that today I needed to read scripture rather than just sit down for centering prayer. The intensity of the new day was glowing through the trees in my east front window, so I began with the the gospel of John:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
After turning that phrase over and over in my mouth longer than I’ve ever been moved to before, I stopped again when I got to the descriptor of John the Baptist:
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness , ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.'” as the prophet Isaiah said.
which connected me to the words of one of the prayer units in Islam from the first chapter of the Qur’an, “The Opening”:
In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy
Praise belongs to God, Lord of the Worlds,
the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy.
Master of the Day of Judgment.
It is You we worship; it is You we ask for Help.
Guide us to the straight path... (italics mine)
Being physically hungry allows a person to feel the hunger in one’s soul that is often covered up by the distractions of life, healthy or unhealthy. The longing to know God’s straight path, to be a part of God’s lavish kisses and hugs today for this hurting world swept me off my feet, as once again my sunglasses and ear plugs slipped from my face.
Thanks be to God.
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