Yesterday, I agreed to do a 3 hour walking tour of the neighborhood where I pastor. The neighborhood is the most densely populated and the most diverse region in the state of Ohio. In the midst of one of the largest universities in the country, live some of the more impoverished families in our city. The goal was to experience the neighborhood on foot and see things that you might miss while driving through in your car. We started our tour at 11am and walked until almost 2pm.
I bundled up to prepare for the elements and brace the cold wind (it is January in Ohio for sure!) But, for some reason, I totally forgot to eat before we left. As we meandered through the neighborhood, I got more and more hungry and less and less engaged in what was going on. All I could think about was how cold and hungry I was. I started seeing visions of sausage biscuits and being dismayed as we passed store after store that was boarded up or no longer in business.
I recognized how few times I find myself in situations where I am genuinely hungry. Physical hunger affects your body, but it also affects your psyche. It is difficult to be fully engaged and present until you are able to meet the basic need of hunger. The hunger supersedes what other priorities you might have had and serves to drive you toward the pursuit of food, at all costs.
It struck me that if we truly hunger for righteousness, that this hunger should have a similar effect on us. In the same way that physical hunger drives us toward food, a true hunger for righteousness drives us toward action to bring that into reality.
As we were walking through this neighborhood, there were immense and apparent needs right around me. I saw a community that is cut off from one another and disengaged with the practices that foster meaningful public spaces. What would it look like for me to actually hunger and thirst for righteousness in my own neighborhood? Am I truly willing to allow myself to experience this kind of hunger? It would likely be messy. I would have to grapple with some emotions and engage some issues that are extremely uncomfortable. I would have to address some dichotomies in our community and admit all the ways that I am participating in the systems. The longing and the hunger for things to be different would be an emotional engagement but it would also drive me toward action, disrupting my nicely ordered plans and engage me in the mess of doing God’s work of bringing the Kingdom of God near to people.
This is the kind of hunger that God longs for us to have in the world. My prayer this week is that God would give me a heart that can experience this hunger and all it entails and that this experience would drive me closer to my own community and the work that God has prepared for me and my congregation.