I was 11, maybe 12. We were still at the
and it was
Communion Sunday. Hersey
we have an “open table”. Meaning you
don’t have to be a member to take communion and anyone who professes Jesus as
Savior and Lord may partake. Parents
often use this as a teaching opportunity as they walk forward with their young
children. Such was the case with young
Tommy Johnson on this particular Sunday. United
The Johnson family always sat in the very back row of that rather small church. And they had about 100 kids. Or so it seemed. In reality they fostered many children and adopted out of the foster care system and cared for the ones otherwise “left behind”. It is probably why they sat in the back row...to have an easy escape route. Tommy, at the time their youngest...fostered and later adopted, was memorable. Probably because he was only a year or so older than Gabe, my youngest brother. That and because of one fateful Communion Sunday.
Per usual, Tommy’s parents had taken him in arm to the front for communion. Pastor Dad leaned in with special words just for him as three (or so) year-old Tommy ate the small chunk of bread with juice. And then began the long journey to return to the back row.
They hadn’t made it more than half way back when Tommy screamed boldly through feisty squirms. The organ music continued in the background as Tommy bellowed loudly enough for the deafest congregant to hear...
“BUT I’M. STILL HUNGRY!”
Most people looked with wide eyes; shocked out of their reverent moment if nothing else. There were a few giggles (okay, mostly from my row of siblings). His mom looked mortified as she quietly scolded him and moved faster down the side aisle. The organ continued without missing a note and communion with it. But my 11 or 12 year old brain had locked in. Locked in to words truer than young Tommy’s mind could have possibly meant or understood.
Tommy was responding to an intrinsic need. Hunger. Nearing noon, that delicious crouton sized bread chunk was a reminder that lunch should be happening. Soon. He fought backwards and upside down trying to get back – back to where just a taste was enough to remind him of his need. His want. His desire. A want and desire and need real enough to proclaim loudly and boldly about what, indeed, he was fighting for...
He had a point there. Communion as a sacrament can be very ritualistic, even routine as a reminder of supreme importance. But broken down to its basic premise? To have but a mere taste of Christ and to leave satisfied? The idea is nearly preposterous. Yet, as a body of believers we would be doing well if leaving satisfied after experiencing the reality of Christ was limited to only communion.
I suppose there is some essence in which we recognize God as more than enough. Jesus tells us that in terms of spiritual hunger and thirst – He himself is the bread of life (John 6:35). He sustains, fulfills, and is far more than we could ever ask or require. We recognize this best at the depth of need. But even then – we come to God empty and are thankful to be full. Who defines “full”? Often...we do. We’re complacent consumers. Too many of us come for just what we think we need and leave resembling not as someone even filled to the measure but rather one with superior self-control on a no-sugar diet at a Christmas cookie tasting. We claim to be full even though we are left wanting. Or maybe it’s just me. I’m not insatiable. I’m not longing. I think I’m satisfied but what I am is self-decidedly full even though I should still be hungry...
When I was in
Uganda the locals treated us as
honored guests and they would heap food on our plates. It was one of the first days in country and
one of the few guys on our trip responded to another helping in a very American
way: “No! No thank you! I am so full!”
The hostess walked away politely. And then she later came back and
offered the same gentleman something else, but something more. He was so
confused as he again tried to explain that he was very full. Our professor, someone who had spent
considerable time in Africa, looked at us and
said “never say ‘I’m full’; instead always say ‘I am satisfied’ when you’ve had
enough...” In the states to lean back with hands on stomach and pronounce
ourselves “so full!” is a compliment. In
it was quite rude. Our professor
explained that to say we were full was a way of saying we wanted no more – but
it was almost like saying it wasn’t very good.
Likely, in attempts to redeem themselves, the hostess would try to serve
something again to make sure you left satisfied. To be satisfied to was to have enjoyed the
meal to its fullness (not ours) and to indicate that what we had was so good we
required no more and no less.
How often, under such a distinction, do we leave the presence of God decidedly satisfied when really, we are, at best, full?
To leave satisfied... A perfect compliment for a generous meal. To be perfectly filled to the measure of the fullness of all something has to offer... I think of this often and find it fantastic for many things. But not for God. To be satisfied comes with a measure and limitations...
As a human I am limited. I can go to God and find myself full. I have reached my limit. But I can never truly be satisfied. To be satisfied would be to experience God in His fullness and it’s something I am incapable of...
When I first started toying with this thought process, it felt wrong. “Surely God satisfies!” I declared thinking of the ways in which God reveals Himself as more than enough... And then I realized what a box that put Him in. “No! No! He doesn’t and He shouldn’t!” When did I, when did we, become “okay” with being satisfied with God? When did we think to ourselves “ah yes, of God I have had enough! Am I not blessed?” We proclaim it honestly enough and often without a hint of mal-intent. But it is a shame. For of God we will only scratch the surface...
At one of the camps I was at this summer there was one chorus sang every night around the fire... “Set a fire down in my soul that I can’t contain, that I can’t control. I want more of you God. I want more of you God...”
The words routinely struck me: “...that I can’t contain, that I can’t control....”
The thing with fires is that they are NEVER satisfied. A fire will burn as long as there is fuel. In fact, the right fuel at the right time will cause it to burn bigger and brighter and bolder. A fire that doesn’t want? Isn’t fueled? It’s dead. A true fire, an alive fire burns. Endlessly. I think of the forest fires fought out west... Those are fires which were and could not be satisfied. They couldn’t be contained or controlled. The more it was fed, the more it wanted. More and more....
Is that now how it should be with out relationship with Christ? The more we are fed the more we should want. More and more. To be given just a single taste and proclaim with Tommy’s gusto: “I’m still hungry! I want more and more and more. Beyond what I contain and what I can control. I want more of you and refused to be satisfied...”
The Psalmist cries out over and over how he longs for God....
“As a deer pants for streams of water so my soul longs for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42)
“I stretch out my hands to You; my soul longs for You, as a parched land..." (Psalm 143)
God is SO much more than who I am and what know and what I think. And when I realize I can never truly be satisfied, I start fighting. Backwards and upside down just trying to get back – back to where just a taste is enough to remind me of my need. My want. My desire. A want and desire and need real enough to proclaim loudly and boldly about what or rather who it is I am fighting for...
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will up my hands...” - Psalm 63:1-4