“Have you ever really been hungry?” an American friend asked. He likely expected an acknowledgment of the plenty offered by our culture. My answer, “Yes, I have,” surprised and silenced him.
I could remember as a college student laying awake in bed with my stomach growling. My bellybutton felt like it touched my backbone. You see, I sometimes spent all my weekend food money–maybe three dollars–on a Friday night date. Despite my hunger I would congratulate myself for having kissed a pretty girl goodnight.
I had also experienced fasting for spiritual reasons. On one occasion, I led our church on a seven-day fast praying for a new pastor. “You won’t even want food,” some fasting experts had claimed. Didn’t work that way for me. After a day, things I wouldn’t ordinarily eat–like food left on someone else’s plate–started looking pretty good. After three days, food on the cat’s plate looked good. After five days the cat started looking tasty.”
Lest fasting enthusiasts object, fasting did make other concerns of life seem less dire. And our church found a wonderful new pastor shortly after. Unfortunately for me, that fast ended the same day we had agreed to speak at another church. “Let us take you out to eat,” our hosts offered before the service. They selected an all-you-can eat buffet restaurant. Not knowing about our fast, they said “Wow! You guys are really hungry!” You can guess what’s coming. Standing before the congregation, I became nauseated. Kit gave most of our talk while I barely managed to not throw up onto the pulpit.
But those weren’t the hunger I spoke of to my friend. In Africa, getting enough nourishment could be difficult. But finding food relatively safe to eat, having no time to prepare it, or being too sick to eat resulted in long term deprivation. In that circumstance, you know your body isn’t getting enough even though you may have eaten something that day. Fear and a certain desperation can set in. I certainly became a non-picky eater. I’ve eaten nearly everything organic including insects. I just hate it when their legs get stuck in your teeth.
Even now, I find throwing away food difficult and once ate a pizza accidently left for weeks out of the freezer. And I frequently give money to people who ask me for food in parking lots, even though experts say you shouldn’t. I just don’t know for certain what they are experiencing. Just like my American friend got a surprise, I’ll bet we would be surprised at what those around us have experienced. Good reason to give everyone some grace. Drew