Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
– Matthew 5:6
It’s been exactly one week since I decided that I’d had enough of constant gallbladder pain, nausea, headaches, sleeplessness, and overall “ick,” upon which decision I began a combination detox and allergy elimination diet. It’s fairly straightforward in some ways–no sugar (of any kind), no oil (of any kind), and at least for the first week or two, no grains, no processed foods, no meat, etc. Basically, I’ve just been eating raw or cooked-without-oil fruits and veggies and a few seeds now and then. To drink, it’s been only herbal tea, beet juice fresh from the juicer, or water (of which I currently consume copious amounts).
Needless to say, for the first couple of days, I was hungry! Now, this wasn’t a physical, stomach-growling, lightheaded hunger; rather, even though I’d eaten plenty of raw veggies, or roasted sweet potatoes, or pumpkin seeds, or pears, or grilled zucchini and squash, I felt dissatisfied. I wanted another gluten- and dairy-free pizza, dripping with pepperoni grease. I wanted oat-flour cookies in extravagant amounts. I wanted to gorge on oil-filled peanut butter or to pop some popcorn and smother it in dairy-free (thus, oil-based) margarine.
I began to realize in actuality what I’d known already–that I couldn’t trust the signals my unhealthy body was sending me. Though my stomach was adequately filled, my mind and my emotions wanted me to believe that it was not. For me (as for most people), food had become a sort of psychological dependence, where nutritionally empty, or even blatantly unhealthful foods were consumed in exchange for the delight of my desensitized taste buds and the perceived comfort of a heavy or sugar-laden meal.
Add to this so-called hunger the release of toxins throughout my body, as my battered immune system and over-taxed digestive system–newly freed from their ongoing struggle against consistent invasions of unwholesomeness–began the cleansing process of removing from my system all the “ick” that had built up over time. This is not a pleasant feeling. Still, in those few long days, I knew that both my hunger and my pain were signs that the strict regimen to which I’d bound my will was, indeed, working.
Soon, the psychological hunger gave way to excitement and joy at the discovery of new tastes or at the feeling of genuine satisfaction that follows a fresh and colorful meal. And as the toxicity slowly leeched away from my system, I began to feel only comfort where before nagging pains or nausea had existed. Soon, I could make a distinction between real, honest-to-goodness, deep-down physical hunger and the other type I’ve already described. I can tell now, for the first time in awhile, when I’m legitimately hungry, and when I just “want” food. And I’ve realized that in the gratified world of snacking and convenience, so many like me experience that true physical hunger only very rarely.
Alright, so I didn’t set out simply to lay out a rather mundane account of the past week. The minute details of some radical diet are hardly entertaining. And I don’t mean to give the impression that I’m all better, or that the diet has been perfect, or that I’ve even fully embraced all the changes I’ve been making. It’s been one week. We’ll see where the coming weeks will take me.
But I have been encouraged by the fact that genuine hunger doesn’t lead to stuffing oneself with deceptively fulfilling things–instead, when I’ve been truly hungry this week, that’s when I’ve been most strongly motivated to learn and to grow. There’s no quick fix, no microwave meal or delectable treat. I must simply figure out how best to enable myself to partake of the things that are already great. In other words, genuine hunger drives me towards the things that I know to be good and to be worthy of my desire. And, in the marvelously simple grace of Providence, those things also happen to be the most genuinely satisfying. For me, they’re the only things that don’t come along with the unhappy side-effects of digestive disorders and musculoskeletal malaise.
For example, why on earth would I turn down these fresh, flavorful, entirely raw, and incredibly nutritious avocado cabbage wraps for something that I know will just make me feel ill:
That would be (as I hinted in another post) insanity.
The process is still not always an easy one, however, and as I said, it remains to be seen whether or not I shall persevere. For every genuine pang of hunger, there yet exists the temptation of a sheerly pleasurable repast. But it is my hope that my tastes will change, that my desires will be conformed to what I know to be right and good in this part of my life, as in all things.
And in the meanwhile, I am satisfied. I believe that the passage quoted at the beginning of this post has often been misused. It is not that there exists some point in the life of a Christian at which the hungering and thirsting after righteousness will cease. Instead, I think the Christian is called to be satisfied with that hunger, in and through that hunger, knowing that only when the hunger exists is he being driven towards the things that are truly best. And what a glorious albeit paradoxical hope, that the righteousness for which he hungers unceasingly is indeed also simultaneously infinitely satisfying.
Similarly, when one’s conscience has been “trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14), he may discern also the difference between his own selfishly gluttonous hunger and the true hunger and thirst for righteousness to which he has been called. May such genuine hunger never cease on earth, if by its influence one may find himself stripped anew each day of every fleeting, vain, and human desire–find himself conformed ever more closely to the image of Christ, who learned obedience through suffering, and yet in Whom alone there is abundance enough to satisfy even the most greatly hungered soul.