“If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, One does not live on bread alone.’” Luke 4:3-4
“Can I have a snack?”
“Didn’t you JUST eat?”
“I need a different snack, a better snack.”
Crackers, cereal, apple slices, yogurts, cheese sticks. They scavenge around the kitchen, their survival mode in high gear, acting as if they have crossed a barren desert with nothing more than stale bread to sustain them. In fact, they have been at a school with a universal hot lunch program, their own snacks at recess, and a breakfast bag that comes home at the end of the day. Yet, my kids still come home with bottomless pits in their stomachs.
My herd of grazing kids became a Lenten image. In today’s Scripture, the devil tempts Jesus to turn stone into bread and thus satisfy his own needs. Jesus, in calling out the devil’s temptation, calls forth the areas of our own lives that we are desperately trying to fill with meaning. Many people use the same strategies to satisfy their physical and spiritual hunger. The “snack impulses” that spoke to me this Lent were boredom and dissatisfaction.
After the barrage of activity and stimulation at school, my kids come crashing through the door. Backpacks go flying, shoes get scattered. They are tired from their day, yet filled with a restless energy that needs somewhere to go. So they walk into the kitchen and look for something that peeks their interest. They peruse the goodie bags from a birthday party, the remnants of Valentines day exchanges, and whatever treats Matthew baked with Grandma. They are looking for stimulation and excitement; and not yet ready to tackle that math worksheet or practice spelling words.
When our day to day routines begin to drag and feel monotonous we begin to seek satisfaction elsewhere. We stuff ourselves with self-help podcasts and tip sheets from bloggers. Sometimes that change can be lasting, but oftentimes we are spurred by a restless energy that we have not quite found a place to direct.
The hunt for a “different” or “better” snack can also come from a dissatisfaction with the options before us. In our kitchen this happens when the lunch at school doesn’t live up to their hopes or (gasp!) they run out of the main option and are left with a sunbutter sandwich. When nothing seems to satisfy our craving, we keep eating and eating until something does feel right. We sign up for every class and seminar, try every method of praying, and keep consuming until we stop the ache inside. Lent can be particularly difficult in this way: there are so many wonderful prayer programs, series, and retreats on offer. When we have not been able to identify what God is calling us to, or trying to call forth in us, we bounce from one prayer style (or one snack) to the next. Hunger in itself is not bad, and it can be a tool for self-discovery. In our haste to make it go away, we sometimes grab whatever is in sight. Before we choose a solution, sometimes God is inviting us to spend more time with Him simply naming that longing and asking for wisdom and guidance.
As we enter this Lenten season of Fasting, Almsgiving, and Prayer, perhaps God is inviting us to enter into our spiritual hunger with greater patience and openness.
Follow me, and other great Ignatian writers, this Lent at http://www.christusministries.org.