This past week I picked up not one, but TWO care packages from the post office. My Aunt Cindy and Grandma are the world’s most conscientious relatives, best bakers, and kindest, most generous family members – and in every box from them, I can be assured to find tupperware with sugary treats inside.
Aunt Cindy made brownies, covered in little ghost sprinkles. YUM. They lasted an entire day. That’s all.
Grandma baked me these cookies called “hermits” bursting with brown sugar and raisins, and peanut butter cookies with Milky Ways in the center. Oh, please. Grandma, my driver’s license already says I weigh too much, and I’m not keen on changing it. These cookies, too, are long gone.
Why would I blog about being hungry in a week when the postman is constantly bringing me goodies from all over the country? (There’s another package from my mom at the post office right now… it’s supposedly clothes, but I have a suspicion she stuck hot chocolate packets in the corners of the box, like she typically does, that sneaky woman).
I’m not physically hungry very often, even as a college student on a budget. I’m blessed to afford enough groceries to be well fed – so blessed, in fact, as to bring home big bags of groceries every Sunday when the fridge starts to look less than crammed. Jackie and I complain all the way home (a 20-minute walk) from SuperFresh on 5th street that we bought too much. What a problem, huh?
No, I eat well here. But I think about hunger knowing that so many in Philadelphia are not so lucky, so many in the world. And not only physically hungry, but desperately, spiritually starving.
Last Thursday my City Seminar class visited a county corrections facility. While we smelled some delicious fried chicken walking through the cement hallways, when we toured the prisoner’s pods, we saw guys in orange jumpsuits through bars and glass eating slimy cold cuts and oranges. They’re getting fed plenty, our security officer tour guide assured us – no more than they need, and no less.
Inmates in what looked like blue scrubs (lower security inmates) were working in the kitchen when we passed. They turned and waved, tattoo-covered, unsmiling. We asked them if the food was good.
They shook their heads, no. They looked completely unsatisfied – and I didn’t blame them.
This city is known for serving cheesesteaks and soft pretzels, frozen yogurt and water ice, and every kind of cuisine from Indian to Burmese. There are food carts on every corner. We have access to more food than we could ever want – but does it satisfy? Of course not. Every person who has ever tried to eat their way to happiness knows that a full fridge does not make a person happy, and that hunger runs deeper than a belly ache and a physical craving.
Lately I’ve craved more than just brownies and popcorn. Everyone does, even if they don’t admit it openly. We’re hungry to be nourished, not just fed.
I’m talking about spiritual fulfillment, the kind of nourishment I’ve only found in Jesus Christ.
My housemate Jackie and I attend a church called Antioch of Calvary Chapel in West Philly. The 9:00 service is two hours long, and it is packed with power. It is Holy Spirit-saturated. This morning, when we stood on the high subway platform after church, waiting for the train to take us back to Center City, Jackie exclaimed something really profound.
She said, “Church just keeps getting better every week. And you know what, Brookie? It’s because every week, I’m hungrier and hungrier.”
Philadelphia is a city full of beauty, but it’s also full of darkness. It’s a small piece of the larger world that is broken beyond repair, stained with sin, and this is evident in the culture, the night life, the trash-lined streets. I start to feel hopeless when I traverse the smelly subways, when I see the poverty of North Philly, and when I hear the sirens, the loud profanity from strangers, the fights, the lewd comments.
It’s enough to make a person ravenous for what’s pure and good and filling. For the opposite of darkness.
And that’s light. That’s Jesus, the light of the world, who came to earth fully divine and fully human to die for the sin that traps us in darkness. He lived a perfect, beautiful life loving, teaching, and fulfilling prophecy that was written about him hundreds of years before he was even born. Then he fulfilled every one of those Old Testament prophecies, dying a criminal’s death on a cross because our sins had to be paid for, because we deserved death and he loved us too much to demand that of us.
His resurrection is the best news the world has ever heard.
It’s why I go to church every Sunday. It’s why Jackie and I ride the subway west absolutely starving for spiritual nourishment, and leave feeling like we’ve been fed the Thanksgiving of all spiritual dinners. Jesus is alive, and he fills us with his Spirit in fellowship with other believers. He is so good!
God fills the hungry, the unhappy prisoner, the poor, the fed college student – with good things. With Philly pretzels and brownies with ghost sprinkles, and with his truth. Praise him for it.