I was raised by wanderers.
My childhood involved a lot of moving. I come from noble stock of Southern Baptist nomads. Our moving had absolutely nothing to do with our faith and everything to do with my daddy’s occupation. We were not wandering in the desert for forty years, looking for the Promised Land, even though being the new girl in school made me feel that way sometimes.
All my memories, from the shores of the Gulf of Mexico to the North Dakota plains and everywhere in between, hold one constant: food. While I joke about my Bedouin childhood, the real truth is that we specialized in gathering. Not just produce, although we had our fair share of gardens. Our real gathering occurred around the table. Even though my daddy was a college basketball coach for most of my life, my parents made a point of eating meals together. Getting together with friends and family always involved eating. I don’t possess one significant memory of my life where food wasn’t involved. Gathering around the table was for more than physical nourishment. It was good for this girl’s soul.
Earlier this summer, at two churches that could not have been more different (one a small congregation in Minnesota and the other a megachurch in Florida), I heard the same message – growing closer to God. Although the verses included in the message were different, the effect the sermons had on my heart was identical. Food speaks to me, and sometimes I think God must feel like he has to use a gigantic frying pan to get my attention. During both messages my mind began to wander to the word hunger, and for someone who loves to eat, you might think my thoughts were drifting off to lunch plans, but in neither case was that where my mind was going.
At the second church, which happened to be my sister’s church all those miles from home, I began to feel like the message was directed straight to me. Wait a minute! Didn’t we just talk about this last week? Oh wait! Last week I was still home in Minnesota. God, are you trying to tell me something?
The more the pastor spoke, the more I felt convinced God really did have a powerful message I needed to hear. Both pastors spoke about ways to grow closer to God: spending time in his word, praying daily and at times fervently, gathering with God’s people, and being purposeful about having quiet time with God every day. All are things I try very diligently to do, but there are moments when I don’t reach that ideal. I offer no excuses, but more times than I would like to admit I get wrapped up in myself and my busyness and forget to make God my first priority. Every day I start anew, trying to rely less on me and more on God. Things always (and by always, I mean 100% of the time) go much more smoothly when I do. I wasn’t joking about the frying pan example earlier.
By this time, I was listening and praying. Lord, how do I fix this problem? What do you want me to do to grow closer to you?
Although no audible answer was heard, my thoughts continued to drift back to the word hunger. Like a beacon of light for my heart, I realized what I was truly hungry for. The excitement that I have for many things in life is regarding what God wants me to bring to the “table” in our relationship. Although I have been a little more planted than my parents were at my age, I did inherit the dreamer gene. There are times in my life where I dream of the next big thing – vacation, day trip, gourmet meal – but all that dreaming often leaves me less than satisfied. The same enthusiasm I have when dreaming he wants me to bring in seeking him. The only way I can do that is to develop a hunger – yes, a soul appetite-sized hunger – for God’s word.
At the closing prayer, tears washed down my cheeks as I humbly prayed, God help me to be hungry for your word. Help me to make this a daily hunger in my life, one that never feels satisfied, always seeking one more morsel that brings me closer to you.
“Jesus replied, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” John 6:35