Five days into Lent, two hours after lunch and all I can think about is how hungry I am. I’m not craving bread or chips or chocolate. I’m want things much more important and satisfying than food. I’m hungry for things to be different, to be better, to be whole.
I encounter a lot of ugliness in my job. Slander, malice, deceit, harassment, abuse, assault, prejudice, racism, addiction and drunkenness – that’s a long and very dirty laundry list of things to not only witness but to deal with on a regular basis. Usually I deal with these things with a good measure of compassion and a generous dose of care. This week I’m discouraged and anxious. I feel shriveled, weak and very, very hungry.
I’m hungry for truth. I want to see someone with the courage to be honest – to simply admit when they have made a mistake, even if it’s a really huge mistake, even when consequences are looming. I want to be confident that when I ask what happened, that I hear the truth rather than a story. Don’t give me shaded or slanted truth – that’s not really truth. I want clarity and straight answers; instead, I’m fed lies.
I’m desperate for justice and right relationship. Far too often I see people tearing at each other, leaving a path of destruction everywhere. Why, after four years of honest confrontation and difficult conversations have I seen so little change or positive outcomes? Faithful servants are far too often kicked and bruised for their integrity. There is a wolf in pit of my stomach. It’s growling, uneasy, stirring. It’s far from satisfied.
I’m starving for reparation. Apologies are inadequate. Anyone can say the words “I’m sorry” and mean nothing. Can these two words heal the defamation of being called a schizo or a whore in front of a roomful of strangers? Does an apology mean anything to a person who has been cursed at and physically intimidated?
I’m famished and frustrated. Sometimes I think that the risks of work in the trenches far outweigh the potential gain. I know this is not true, but it feels true. It says something when my optimistic and joyful spirit is diminished. It means something when we mourn more than we celebrate. Scripture says that there is time for everything, a time for both mourning and celebration. Mourning seems to be reigning lately. That feels defeating.
I can’t sit here forever, feeling wasted and wanting and raw, but I don’t know what else to do. Without sustenance, where do I get the energy to pursue the other, to hunt for something better, to chase after things that are whole? This hunger scrapes and claws at my guts. Inside I’m aching, with deep hollow spaces and an abiding hunger.
Is this what Jesus felt like in the desert, alone and hungry for forty days, tempted and attacked by his Enemy? Maybe Lent this year is an opportunity for me to discover that hunger, though painful and awful, is not pointless. Perhaps what we hunger for, and just how deeply we crave it, can be signs of a healthy spirit? Right now, in my Lenten desert, all I know for sure is that I’m ravenous.