Hunger as a gift

Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

Luke 6.21

A reflection during lockdown

When my sister and I were little, my parents would battle with us to eat our dinner every evening. For whatever reason, we liked to play with our food rather than eating it. My father who grew up in poverty was beside himself with any possibility of wasting food. There were quite a lot of struggles between us during that period.

One day, he sat us down, and talked to us in almost in a whisper something that would stay with me forever, he said: “Hunger is such a gift to anyone, but I don’t have the heart to give it to you girls.”

For a long time afterward, I thought about what he said, I wondered if I have heard him right, hunger, ‘a gift’? I thought that for him who knew hunger intimately, he of all people would want to avoid hunger at all cost, never be hungry again, right? Why would he say that it was a gift?

As I got older, had more taste of life, having had some experiences of lack from time to time, I gradually grasp what he was trying to say. Being with people who experienced hunger and lack, I noticed a difference in them. It is very hard to articulate, it’s impossible to describe, until they have also tasted and been transformed by the experience of doing without something, even something essential like food.

A gift

Experience of lack is a gift because it made you realise the real need and not taken it for granted. Once you have been hungry, no longer are there preoccupation of the taste or the presentation, food is realigned its purpose of being sustenance. We become grateful when we are filled. There is simplicity in purpose.

Experience of lack is a gift because it made you enjoy whatever you have right in front of you. You are happier than before you experienced lack, whatever the situation might be.

Experience of lack is a gift because it changes you the way you experience life. It stays with you like a friend reminding you that many things that seems so important are actually superfluous, even illusions. It sheds you of the imaginary weight you have been carrying unnecessarily. You learn about how little you really need. And the lack of choice actually give you a sense of freedom and happiness.

Experience of lack also reminds you that you will be ok, because you have had to experienced something hard, yet you are still here. Changed, maybe, but here. The experience of lack has answered your question that was within you: “would I be ok if…” and the answer is ‘yes’! Even if you were not asking the question, or surprised by the answer. You carry that new sense of confidence with you to the next challenge.

I know for some, the experience of lack can became an unwelcomed presence that haunts their every decision, even define their identity. So it’s unfair to say that all experience of lack will be a gift, but I believe that it always has the potential to be. We define it by the narrative we choose to write in our story. There is always hope that it is temporarily unhelpful until you learn to be aware and be friends with your experience.

When we had to do without something, not only do we feel the discomfort, but we also feel the sense of losing control. We came face to face with the fact that it was an illusion when we thought we had control.

Unlike my younger self, I now learnt to appreciate food as what it is, not as how I want it to be. I can see how often I have had taken it for granted when I was little.

I wonder if I have taken my spiritual food for granted too, just because it is abundant, freely available to me. Especially when I now live in a place where we can gather freely as faith communities. Until now…

If I feel like God will always be there, waiting for me, would I take Him for granted? How often do I wait for Him?

Lockdown in lent

The lockdown we find ourselves in, happened so suddenly yet so aptly during lent, has produced a situation forcibly where we practice the discipline of ‘lack’. Physical, material things, habits, social events might all be something we rely on. Even spiritual events are unavailable to us in the old form. We have had to all practice doing without something.

What do you have to do without? Something you depend on, something you have taken for granted, something life-giving?

It might be something you realized that you depend on it more than you thought. When it was taken away, does this situation you find yourself in helps you to rely more on God, or takes you further away?

Is there a new way to relate to God without it? If you look, does God show up, like hide and seek, in unexpected places?

Have you found a new found appreciation for what you had to do without? What would you say to God about it?

Can this be an opportunity, to find God, and God alone without anything or anyone else? What does that look like for you?

Before you find another distraction to take you away from that moment, try dwell in the presence of God for a few minutes – you might be surprised at the God you find, and the peace God wants to give you.

Paul had to do without in many occasions, though some might feel like he was showing off in these verses, but I really appreciate him being honest in describing a way of being, that speaks about a realignment of our lives. A way of life that sits on a way ‘knowing’, know that it is not the circumstances, or by the good things God gives us that we have the strength or hope. It is God himself, who is available to us everyday and every moment.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 

Phil 4.11-13

Let the lockdown become a gift to you that you can carry with you for a long time.