I am known to go silent when I’m hungry, and on the unfortunate chance I open my mouth under these circumstances, I hear myself snap one-word responses (particularly, I am loathe to admit, at my closest kin). It’s not that I don’t try to be courteous but when my insides are burning with gastronomic emptiness, it is impossible for me to engage in civil, thoughtful conversation. I am a miserable wreck when I’m hungry, and I make everyone around me miserable as well.
Moreover, I’ve noticed stark similarities in my behavior when my stomach is deprived of food and my soul is deprived of food. Now, food for one’s soul takes many forms; these are activities/things/people who in some way affect a person for the better. They contribute to one’s holistic well-being by tapping into the unique way (s)he has been created to enjoy certain things. In my case, among many others, this includes reading good fiction, goofing around with my husband and kids, having a meal with close friends, creating art, and watching sublime forms of television like The Office. To name these very earthly things as “food for the soul” is, I realize, almost scandalous but there you have it. Once I’ve engaged in these, I emerge feeling like some undefinable part of me has been satiated. Staying away from them for a prolonged period leaves me restless and mildly snappy.
Side note: It can be argued that food for the soul could also include other things that don’t necessarily make you feel like you’ve taken care of yourself but are nevertheless important to your well-being. Top of the list for me in this scenario is exercise, and trying to get along with people I can’t get along with. In fact, there is a whole list of things that Jesus said will make you “blessed” that, at first reading, makes me squirm; see Matthew 5:2-12. “Food for your soul” defined this way is a topic for a whole different blog.
There begins a problem, however, when I try to substitute my list of aforementioned foods for my soul with the food for my soul. In John 6:35, Jesus makes an astounding declaration when He names Himself “the bread of life”—the only food that can sustain a soul’s heartbeat and keep alive its breathing. I think we know this on an intellectual level, but often forget it on a practical one. Thus, I’ve noticed in my own life, my first instinct when I am anxious is to fret incessantly, and then, upon seeing that that didn’t help an ounce, try to drown out all unpleasant evidence through distracting myself by, say, laughing at the antics of Michael Scott. I look to the appetizers to do for me what only the main course can fill; one BBQ Bacon Jalapeno Popper, no matter how scrumptious, cannot do the job of a full-blown South Indian thali. Thus, if Jesus is the bread of life, then to Him must we first and foremost look for sustenance.
This means that when our souls are hungry, restless, and disenchanted, meditating on Jesus has to be first recourse: speaking with Him, reading and thinking about Him, and perhaps, writing about and to Him. This also means that when the sea is calm and we are sitting on a steady boat appreciating the sunset, then too we recognize and hang on to Jesus as our source of contentment. For while many things may give us genuine happiness, only one person imparts throbbing life. In Him lies the promise of soul-fulfillment.