With a master’s degree in theology and more than a decade of pastoral ministry under my belt, I thought I genuinely understood what “spiritual hunger” looked like. But all of that changed when my son Carter arrived in the winter of 2013.
Prior to Carter’s arrival, it had been eight years since I had last engaged in “baby maintenance” activities like changing a diaper or dispensing baby food. In the National Football League, quarterbacks who get more than two Sundays off face the “rest vs. rust” dilemma when they return to play. In the case of this veteran dad, it was all rust — almost a decade’s worth.
Thankfully, after a few months my skills began to reappear and Carter was no worse for the wear.
But I never expected to learn something so spiritually profound during his feeding times. It wasn’t the chewing or the swallowing that captured my attention as much as it was his demeanor, his sounds, his body language at each feeding. Even though he was unable to formulate words, he was still communicating to me in a powerful way.
As I battled the glass jar of baby food with its powerful seal, Carter initiated each meal with a series of baby groans — directed right at me. These were not noises of pain but of deep desire and longing. It was obvious this growing boy was ravenously hungry. Amazingly, these gut-powered groans only continued to grow in volume until the first spoonful finally touched his tongue.
But it wasn’t only the deep, hunger-driven groans of this little guy that fascinated me during feeding times. It was his eyes, too. Once the food was on the spoon, his eyes grew wider with excitement and anticipation. And when the spoon finally hit home, his eyes and lips closed together in a celebration of pureed deliciousness. Oh, what satisfaction!
With each spoonful, I felt like I was watching a person who believed this might be his last meal on earth. Is this how the death-row criminal eats his steak dinner the night before the execution?
One would think that after the first five, 10, or 20 spoonfuls of warm food, any average baby would begin to settle down and relax. But not this boy. Between each spoonful, Carter bellowed out even more agonizing groans, pleading with his father to speed up the food delivery process. If infants could talk, he would have shouted that famous line from the classic “I Love Lucy” episode where Lucy and Ethel work in a candy factory: “Speed it up a little!”
But if the audio soundtrack wasn’t enough to get his point across, Carter consistently put on a display of baby choreography. Waving his arms, kicking his legs, and pounding his baby palms on the food tray were all part of the performance. This child longed for food with every fiber of his being!
With this unique brand of “dinner theater,” I couldn’t help but be reminded of a powerful spiritual analogy the Bible makes in 1 Peter 2:2-3: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
For every Christian who has tasted that the Lord is good — and surely His salvation is good — there ought to be a desperate hunger to consume God’s truth.
When people come to saving faith in Jesus Christ, they have a tremendous resource available for the nourishment of their souls: the Bible. Peter writes that just as newborn babies crave their mothers’ milk, so every Christian should have a passionate yearning for the truth of God, since it is by that truth that we grow and mature spiritually.
For every Christian who has tasted that the Lord is good — and surely His salvation is good — there ought to be a desperate hunger to consume God’s truth. What else can satisfy our souls and lead us to spiritual growth and health except for the Word of God?
Do we long for the truth of God? Do we ache for it? Do our souls groan for it? Do we desire to read, study, meditate, and interact with the Scriptures with as much expectation and excitement as my son yearned for his food?
Do we pursue God’s truth with gut-wrenching focus until we get it? Do we rejoice in the celebration of “being fed”?
If we desire to be healthy and vibrant Christians, each of us must be diligent to stir up our hunger for the things of God. So many Christians settle for just a weekly taste of spiritual truth when God is ready to serve up a daily feast. If only we would pursue God’s truth as vigorously and aggressively as hungry infants pursue their next meal, our spiritual lives would be immensely stronger, and our souls would truly be satisfied.
It has been a few years now since Carter graduated from his high chair into a “big boy” chair. These days, he is learning to share his meals among four older brothers and one hungry baby sister. But even though my little boy is growing up, I won’t soon forget the powerful spiritual truth he illustrated for me during those legendary feeding times.
He taught me something that the seminary never could.
Now I know what hunger really looks like.
Pastor Ryan Day is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he has served for 19 years. He is a regular contributor to LifeZette.