"Go forth and make disciples of all nations" ~ Matthew 28:19
By: Chris Spilka
Well I guess I’ve got to eat at some point right? Let’s see what’s currently in my kitchen cabinet. Some peanuts from the local grocery store, some canned corn that my dad gave me before he left for Florida, a can of Chef Boyardee ravioli, some pancake mix and some bread. Ok so clearly I need to do a little bit more shopping! I’ll save you the agony of hearing what’s in my fridge but let’s just say there is not a lot going on in there either. So I’m hungry and I have nothing to substitute the remorse I feel that it’s not the Thanksgiving dish that I long for. Do you feel that way too?
Today we should all feel a sense of hunger for something. Naturally before Thanksgiving we’re hungry for that masterpiece of a meal! However, I really want you to take a second and think about what it is that you truly hunger for day in and day out. It’s fascinating when you think about it isn’t it? How about who is it that you hunger for? Maybe you hunger for a future spouse or a stronger friendship with someone. Then you ask yourself, ‘why is it that I’m hungering for these things?’ That my friends, is the battle that I want to break down with you today.
What Do I Hunger For?
4 years ago the greatest and worst thing happened to me in a split second. Before I felt the calling to youth ministry I worked as an entertainment supervisor at a Resort/Casino in central New York (Talk about transition!). At this position I was required to accommodate and organize entertainment at four different venues on the property. This job was a lot of fun! It was extremely difficult at first but once I started getting the hang of it I had dreams of being a talent agent in a big city! Why did I have this dream? Well society was telling me that I needed to climb the corporate ladder. I needed to start climbing because I needed more money, I needed to start being more successful than everyone else and I needed to go to a big city because I couldn’t be happy in central New York.
So what happened next? Due to budget cuts in my department, I was let go a few months after being promoted. I was devastated to say the least. I remember calling my parent’s and basically crying like a 3 year old kid who literally had his stuffed bear torn to shreds by his dog. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the Man upstairs was working some miracles behind the scenes. At this job, I was living a life that almost certainly would have brought me down a darker path. If I hadn’t been let go I wouldn’t have felt God’s call to youth ministry. In fact, if I didn’t get let go, I probably wouldn’t have listened to God’s will for my life at all.
What I hunger for now is different from what I hungered for before I was hired at Holy Family. I originally hungered for money, prestige, power, pleasure and a huge house. Now I hunger for happiness, trying to be a better boyfriend, simplicity, God’s will and focusing more on today instead of tomorrow. Do I always hunger for this, sadly no. When the going gets tough it’s easy to focus on desires that you think bring you happiness but really bring you brief pleasure. However, I would ask yourself ‘what do I hunger or thirst for?’ Sometimes the things we thirst for the most are like lemonade—a great tasting drink that ultimately leads us to be thirstier moments later. I think the woman at the well would like that analogy. (John 4) In scripture she was the individual who sought out love through multiple partners (5 in fact.. Yeah she was a bit of a player) Jesus, knowing that her ultimate thirst for love could only be quenched through him, offers her living water. I strongly encourage you to read and reflect on this passage because you’ll come to realize that everything you thirst for in life should indirectly connect to that living water that God offers us everyday!
Who Do I Hunger For?
While I was at my previous job I didn’t really have a person that I hungered for other than myself. I think when you’re a 23-year-old guy fresh out of college, it’s easy to focus on yourself and put the blinders on towards others. Now don’t get me wrong, caring about yourself and your well being is incredibly important! I frequently tell people that if a plane is crashing and you’re on board, listen to the advice of your flight attendant and make sure you put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you help out the others on board (sorry for the morbid image that I just planted in your mind!). However there needs to be people that you hunger for in your lives or else your self-worth is worthless. You also deny yourself the amazing privilege of seeing God work through other people.
4 years ago I found myself in a very unhealthy relationship with this girl that I had recently started dating. Those of you that are reading this know exactly what I’m talking about! I’m not going to divulge all of the details that made it a bad relationship, but I think I can some up the number one quality that makes every relationship go south—you care more about yourself. If you look at the spectrum of all the bad relationships around you it is primarily because someone’s being selfish. The reason for jealousy? You’re upset because you think your partner is doing something better than you. The reason for lust? You care more about your own personal pleasure than you do the other persons soul. The reason for emotionally abusive relationships? Your partner is a jerk and they care more about making you feel worse than making you feel good. I could keep going but I think you catch the drift that it’s centered on selfishness.
I brought up that bad relationship to you before because I knew when I came to Holy Family that I had to get out of that relationship in order to be an effective mentor to my teens. When I went to a Theology of the Body Conference in my first year at Holy Family it changed my life. I had things going on personally that needed to change and it was going to take some time. I’m going to save my experience at this conference for another blog post, but if there was one thing I could express from that experience now it is to be selfless. I’m thankful to God everyday that he didn’t plant my current girl friend in my life until 2 years later. Why? My hunger for relationships was driven by selfish desires. At times do I fall down that path of being a crappy selfish boyfriend, absolutely! Am I still working on it? I’ll be working on it until my last breath. Who are you unselfishly hungering for today? I can tell you this, who you hunger for is indirectly connected to the “Big Guy” above.
Why Do I Have This Hunger?
“Dangit Chris, you had to bring God into the picture here didn’t ya? So now every time I give my girlfriend a smooch I’m going to be thinking of Jesus’ face”. All right, if you’re doing that, I’m a little creeped out. What I meant by saying ‘who you hunger for is indirectly connected to the “Big Guy” above,’ is that God works through good relationships. That’s the way he set up from the start! Every good deed that we do on this earth is connected to God and strengthens our relationship with him.
When you’ve found that particular person that you want to spend the rest of your life with you marry them. You both decide that God is calling you together as one and that you’re going to do all that you can to get your spouse into Heaven. With this commitment you also indirectly promise to change dirty diapers, hold back each other’s hair after a bad bout of food poisoning and run to the store during a blizzard (this happens frequently in central New York). Relationships to another person are not easy and we constantly find ourselves hungering for more.
“So if we’re hungering for more Chris does that mean we are with the wrong person?” No way! If you are not hungering for more during your relationship than quite frankly you’ve given up on it. You’ve indirectly said that I do not feel like I can grow closer to God through this person anymore. If you have no hunger for something, than you no longer have the urge to strive for more and draw nearer to God. Relationships are full of love, happiness, responsibility, complication, struggle, pain and everything in between. All of things that accurately describe the relationship that Jesus had with humanity throughout scripture. A relationship where Jesus showed his ultimate hunger by dying for us! He hungers for us everyday, and through all that we do, we should be ultimately hungering for him. We should hunger for him at work, at the gym, at home, at bingo night with your grandma, everywhere! This hunger will bring us to become the best version of ourselves and to follow God’s incredible plan for our lives.
Each and everyday we should be hungry! So many times when we have physical hunger we seek out the things in our pantry that ultimately can never replace the satisfaction that we get from devouring that amazing Thanksgiving meal. In many cases, maybe you rely on these foods that don’t satisfy your appetite and you start getting fat by eating too much of it! If that’s you, than I invite you to channel your hunger. Hungering for this kind of crap eventually gives you diabetes.
Mother Theresa was an individual who focused her entire ministry on God’s constant thirst for us. She came to see God more often reaching out to her through all of the poor individuals that she served in her ministry. As she continued to grow her ministry, she came to know God more intimately and his constant longing to draw nearer to her each and every day. God is hungry for us! That should get us incredibly excited! For us it’s going to be all about how we take that hunger and channel it to God’s will for our lives. Heaven will be much more satisfying than that Thanksgiving meal on Thursday. If you still say Grandma’s turkey beats it, well, at least it will be more satisfying than the Chef Boyardee.
Many blessings to you and your family this Thanksgiving!