Have you ever had a craving that you just can't place?
That happened to me the other night. We had just said goodbye to a house full of family, and after the rumpus of tumbling kids and half-packed bags and half-cooked meals and the planning of fun outings the house got quiet. We cleaned up, put the kids to bed, and ate take-out on the couch. The crickets chirped outside and train trundled down the track, and all was calm and still around us.
And yet - it was not calm and still within me.
I had that wriggling feeling in my gut, a persistent itch that said, Feed me. I'm not satisfied.
I ran through my mental repertoire of my usual cravings.
Would you like something salty? I asked my discontented belly. I offered myself some popcorn, but my stomach kindly refused.
What about something sweet? There's cake in the fridge! But still, no.
I stood uncertainly in the kitchen for a moment, then shrugged and got a beer. That would do it.
I slid into the hot tub for a soak and took a sip. That's the ticket, I told myself. You just needed to unwind after a busy weekend.
But the beer tasted sour in my mouth, sickly thick and not right at all. I put it down and looked into the sky and wondered what on earth would satisfy me tonight, if not salty sweet treats or a drink and a soak.
My eyes scanned the heavens and the stars twinkled back, an unobtrusive hello from God. And I knew, then, as I received his greeting, what it was I had wanted so badly. Him.
In Isaiah 55, God asks his people:
Why do you spend silver on what is not food,
and your wages on what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and you will enjoy the choicest of foods (CSB).
And yet - I almost always turn to the things that don't satisfy, thinking that this time, they will.
I'm exhausted? I must need more coffee.
I'm lonely? I must need to make more plans.
I'm feeling worthless? I must need new clothes and beauty products.
I'm overwhelmed? I must need a glass of wine.
I'm overworked? I must need to binge Netflix.
But don't you know it, I nearly always partake and I nearly always still feel that nagging discontent afterward.
So, if not coffee or social media or clothes or wine or Netflix, what will make us feel satisfied deep in our bellies?
Sitting with God and listening to his words. The give and take of conversation with him, experiencing the closeness of his power and presence - that's the only food that will satisfy our deepest cravings. He's the only one that can make us feel whole when our gut is crying out for something, someone, to complete us.
"Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless; give me life in your ways" (Psalm 119:37). That is my prayer this week. That I will stop looking for anything but the choicest of foods to bring me satisfaction. That I will remember, this time, that the answer to my craving is not at the bottom of a pot of coffee or bottle of wine, but in the whispered words between my Father and me.