Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My hungers keep me fed

Posted simultaneously at Sturdy Answers.
Last month my landlord told me I needed to move so she could have my apartment available for family. The news was overwhelming.
It is the busiest time of the year for me, and the hardest time of the semester to find housing in my college town. Most significantly, I’ve spent the last 2 ½ years in my previous apartment recovering from illness. It was a quiet cocoon that kept me warm and safe from the heartbreaking world. And I know that somewhere deep down I’ve been afraid that moving from my peaceful place of healing will catapult me back into the illness from which I’m still recovering.
I’ve felt stripped of control. This makes my life feel unpredictable and unsafe. It sends me spinning into a storm of health-threatening “what ifs.”
What if my new place has mold? What if the walls have lead paint? What if my new landlord is untrustworthy?
After a few weeks of pushing through anxiety over potential “what ifs,” I decide to watch the sunset from my new backyard nestled high in the hills over Los Angeles.
barren tree at sunsetA barren tree to my left stretches its spindly fingers wide, reaching for more of the fading sky. A squirrel chases away a nut-stealing nemesis. As the hungry horizon begins to swallow the sun, I’m aware of dozens of unsatisfied hungers — for home, health, marriage, and vocational opportunity — rumbling in my chest. Suddenly I realize that the fear of losing control is rooted in a fear of living with hungers that remain unsatisfied.
There are days when my heart’s hungers shoot through me with painful force. Desperate to make the pain stop, I grasp for control. If I can’t dam the flow of desires, then I’ll do what I can to satisfy them. But when control, or the illusion of it, is wrested from my clenched fists, I’m left to endure and make sense of the gnawing ache.
But my new apartment is no place to consider the role of unsatisfied desire. It’s still cluttered with piles of belongings that don’t have a place, and makes me hunger for rest and order. I’ve got to get out, to go find something that brings me peace. That’s when I walk toward the front door, determined to catch the sunset.
My stomach rumbles, so I stop in the kitchen. There’s a steaming pot of bean and sausage soup on the stovetop. I ladle up a bowl and head to the backyard.
Slowly, I savor my soup while drinking in the evening view. The soup is rich and comforting. It revitalizes my tired body and renews my verve. And it was my hunger that drove me toward this life-giving soup.
I watch the sinking autumn sun finger-paint the sky with amber light. After awhile it feels like her fiery fingers are reaching inside of me, stirring up gratitude and hope. And I realize it was my hunger for peace that drove me toward this life-giving sunset.
My phone buzzes. An out-of-town friend has texted me about a phone-date we’ll have later in the evening. I skim through other texts. There are dozens from friends who wanted to touch base with me this week.
When I moved to this town three years ago I didn’t know a soul, and was hungry for community and belonging. This hunger drove me to meet new people and experience new things. They have given me fresh, uncontained, unexpected life.
I remember with dawning understanding something a colleague recently said: “Life uses hunger to ensure more life.” Our hungers drive us toward goodness, truth, and beauty we’d otherwise not seek.
My bowl is empty now, and the sun is almost out of sight. In the distance I can see downtown Los Angeles, its skyscrapers a gray silhouette against the honeyed horizon.
It looks like Oz, beckoning me to come with my “If only’s” to have my deepest desires granted.
I remember the scarecrow’s refrain, “If only I had a brain,” the Cowardly Lion’s hope for courage, the tin man’s desire for a heart, and Dorothy’s longing for home.
Those hungers impelled them on a journey that helped them discover their truest selves and experience belonging. Had they not experienced deep hunger, their lives would have had no movement. Their growth would have been stagnant.
In the Christian classic The Pilgrim’s Progress, Paul Bunyan writes about the Christian journey:
This hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here.
The same hungers that lead me toward friends and satisfying work ultimately lead me toward the Bread of Life. They daily push me out of the disorienting thickets of distraction back onto the winding way of Jesus. Without fierce, unsatisfied hungers, I’d hardly dare to ascend the high, difficult hill that leads to the life-giving cross of Christ.
The sun has sunk into the sea now and the crickets have cued their evening song, so I head inside. My hungers, for peace and sustenance, have been satisfied, for now. Tomorrow they will growl again, joined by a chorus of others. With each aching rumble, I hope I can surrender to the goodness of hungers that daily teach me to live.
© by scj

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