Growth on an Empty Stomach

What influences the ruling reason that guides your life?

[Holiday and Hanselman, The Daily Stoic, New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2016, p. 96]

When I say I’m hungry, what I really mean is I want something to eat in the next few minutes; when my husband says he’s hungry, he means he’d like to have something to eat in the next couple of hours. We realized this difference driving from New Jersey to New Hampshire. To keep subsequent road trips pleasant, my husband adopted a new pattern: whenever I said I was hungry, he pulled over at the very next restaurant. It didn’t matter what kind food it served – as long as the place was clean, we stopped for a meal. I also changed my pattern: I made sure to bring snacks so I wouldn’t lose my sense of humor if mealtime was delayed by an hour. If we hadn’t made these adjustments, there would have been a lot more arguments in the car over the years. Low blood sugar affects my mood, my mood affects our relationship.

When I recognize the connection between lack of food and my bad mood, and I can usually compensate for my crankiness; I can keep it as in inner dialogue rather than one between me and whomever might be in the room. Still, it does affect my reasoning. Perhaps this food/feeling/action connection is why gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins – fear of hunger leads to hoarding food at the expense of self, other, and world.

I suspect that everyone has something that undermines their ability to think clearly and act wisely. Lack of sunlight for some, lack of sleep for others, God knows what else for the rest of humanity. Changing behavior to keep things on an even keel is a good option – bring the snacks, pull over at the next restaurant. But personal growth comes when recognition leads to inner dialogue rather than external damage. Accepting with grace the difficulty that can derail judgment and action and working to make sure it doesn’t. To do this can strengthen the spirit and deepen compassion for others – God’s spiritual feast that only comes when the bread doesn’t.

Perhaps it’s for people like me that Jesus reveals himself to be life-giving bread and wine…

Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread of heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life.Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:32-35 NRSV

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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

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