They weren’t exactly terms of endearment, the first words my wife—my Paradise Partner—spoke to me this morning: ‘I’m hungry,’ she said. But I took no offense, because frankly, I resembled that remark.
It was the first thing I noticed upon waking today: How hungry and out-of-sorts I felt. My growling belly didn’t surprise me in the least on this second day of Lent, following the ‘Catholic fast’ that our observance of Ash Wednesday had imposed.
I call it a ‘Catholic fast’, because I didn’t actually do without food yesterday: A bagel for breakfast; grilled cheese for lunch; and bowl of clam chowder with a hunk of sourdough for dinner. For many in the world, that would constitute a feast…so it’s a little embarrassing to realize how deprived I felt by following, for a day, the Church’s ‘simple meal’ guidelines.
Upon waking this morning, I noticed, too, that I was just a tad cranky from my hunger. Not unlike our infant granddaughter when she rouses from a nap. ‘Feed me NOW,’ her plaintive cries tend to say.
She’s not into self-denial at this point in her life. Nor is this virtue always at the top of my list, as the annual Ash Wednesday fast reminds me.
So perhaps it’s worth pondering what opportunities for spiritual growth are lost when I give in to my appetites. As the liturgical composer and commentator Bob Hurd observes, ‘The fullness of life opens up for us only when we reach out beyond the natural default of the self-absorbed ego. This little constricted self must continually die so that the bigger self can live.’
Imagine that: I might actually do well to embrace hunger from time to time. To consider it a growing pain, giving Christ—the bigger self—all the more chance to swell in me.
Let us pause now…to remember that we are in the presence of the Holy One.