Spiritually Fed

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What are the most memorable meals you have ever eaten?  

I’ll never forget a clambake I enjoyed almost 40 years ago near the coast of Maine. 

I was one of the adult leaders of a high school mission trip.  Local people, grateful for the work we had been doing for the past week, spent half a day preparing veritable mountains of lobsters, clams, potatoes, and corn on the cob, garnished with lemon and butter.  As it turned out, a number of the teenagers in our group – all Hoosier kids – didn’t care much for seafood.   

In the interest of “being a good steward” of all that food (that’s what I kept telling myself) I ended up eating three lobsters and four dozen clams.  Those were the reckless days of my gastronomic life.

A few years later, I was part of a group visiting a small village in northern Greece.  We had been told that some of the residents had prepared lunch for us.  I’ll never forget seeing the table spread from one end to the other with exquisite Greek delicacies and pastries – traditional dishes prepared by the mothers and grandmothers of that village as a way of expressing their love.  Nothing ever tasted so good. 

Then there was the Saturday evening meal on a Boy Scout “survival” weekend.  Our troop had already spent a day and a half in southern Indiana trying to live off the land, a task for which we clearly had no discernible skills.    

We had no cooking equipment.  But each pair of Scouts was given a single live chicken. 

My partner and I shuddered at the thought of killing, plucking, and cutting up our bird, which we had already, naturally, given a special name.  But we were very hungry.  We cooked the chicken over an open fire, and no doubt ate meat at a temperature well below nationally recommended standards.  I’ll never forget that meal.  But to quote Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that. 

Without question, most of the meals I have eaten in my life I can’t remember at all.  It’s challenging, in fact, for me to bring to mind a good deal of what I have eaten within the past seven days. 

I have the distinct impression, however, that if I hadn’t eaten several times a day for the duration of my life, I wouldn’t be here right now.

What are your most memorable spiritual experiences? 

One could be joyful while another felt traumatic.  One might have happened in a quiet chapel while you were alone, while another arrived in the presence of thousands of other people at Vatican Square in Rome.  One of your experiences might have shattered your status quo life with all the subtlety of a lightning bolt, while another felt more like waking up from a long sleep into the realization that you are deeply loved by a God who will never abandon you.

Truly memorable spiritual experiences are wonderful.  But for most of us, they are few and far between. 

What keeps us spiritually alive are all the “meals” that we can hardly remember:  daily pauses for prayer; moments of silent reflection; digging regularly into our Bibles, even when it feels as if we aren’t learning anything new or hearing anything fresh from God.

It’s challenging to remember specific discoveries from most of those spiritual feedings.

But we get the distinct impression that unless we had made time for them, day by day, our inner worlds would have starved a long time ago.

Throughout this fall, our bodies will faithfully remind us every few hours that it’s time to eat.

May we also heed the more subtle pangs of spiritual hunger that God will faithfully send our way.