I've stood with the refrigerator door open, searching for something to satisfy my hunger. I see carrots and apples, but I'm craving something sweet. Or salty. Or fatty. What's inside is not what I am craving.
I've opened the cabinet and inventoried the contents: crackers, chips, cookies, peanut butter. There is an old Southern expression: "I've got a hankering " There's good stuff in the cabinet, but that's not what I have a hankering for. I'll sample a couple of items, but nothing seems to satisfy.
I've seen a sign for a restaurant on a highway, remembered the taste of their food, and before I know it, I've turned into their drive-through. I wasn't really all that hungry, but their sign triggered a memory. I was convinced I needed and deserved that taste.
I've taken my family to a special restaurant, where the prices are high and the food is tasty. I was taught never to waste anything, so I eat everything put before me. Even if I am full, I call for more free bread so I can get full value.
I've been known to drink five to six glasses of tea at a meal. Maybe it's a result of growing up in Florida, but I drink a lot of tea. More than once I've jokingly told the waiter to bring me a glass of ice, a pitcher of tea and 20 Sweet'N Low packets. A waiter once told me it was a good thing I was hooked on tea and not beer.
I've been on a diet (more than once) and sat down to a meal where some favorite item is being served - my sister's fried corn bread or guava cobbler or Paula Deen's mashed potatoes - and have eaten myself sick. The diet is forgotten in the face of food that is special. Because I can't get these things whenever I want, I overeat when they are available, until there isn't any left. I seem to be missing a stop button.
Now for an amazing reality: Within a few hours of trying to satisfy my cravings, I was hungry again. I've actually walked out of restaurants and stopped to get something to drink at a drive-through (especially after Chinese or Japanese food. MSG makes me thirsty).
That's not so unusual I suppose. I've also known people who have sacrificed hours and hours to get a degree, and a few days after graduation, they feel kind of flat. I've known people who wanted wealth, got it and wanted more. I've known people who wanted a certain kind of house, finally got it decorated the way they wanted, and then they started over. I've even known people who prayed for kids, got them and then spent as much time as possible away from them. I've known people who desperately wanted to be married, got married and found it wasn't enough to heal the hurt in their heart. I have other friends who, if they start drinking, they can't stop. The craving isn't satisfied. Other people I know are always looking for attention. They can't get enough. Your soul can crave a lot of things.
We keep searching for something to fill us up: achievement, relationships, food, possessions. It doesn't work. We get hungry all over again. The cravings take hold. Whatever we're looking for to fill the hole in our soul isn't big enough; we keep putting stuff in, but it just passes through - sometimes literally.
Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry."
Maybe Jesus is saying if you chase your cravings, you will never get full. If you follow Jesus, the big hole in your soul finally gets filled. Whatever your craving and whenever it hits, first pause, and talk to Jesus. Tell him what you crave. Listen. It might surprise you to hear him say, "Satisfying that craving will only make you feel good for a while. I will fill you forever." Maybe that's what Paul meant when he talked about the "peace that passes all understanding." That is a peace only Jesus can bring, a peace that stops you from being controlled by the cravings.
The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.
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