Sorry, Just Hangry
Often my mom’s gentle way of telling me that I’m being cranky is asking, “Hey, do you think you need a snack?” I know this is her way of telling me that I’m being a brat because 9 times out of 10 when I’m in a bad mood, it’s because I haven’t eaten something in too long and my blood sugar is crashing out. Almost every time I have broken down into what I would consider “ugly tears” in the last couple of years, it’s generally preceded by not having the time to eat a meal.
I get lost sometimes in how to take care of both my body and spirit. I easily get caught up with one and forget about the other. There have actually been times I find myself excusing taking care of one because I’m taking care of the other. And I see this in Believers all over the world. I have seen this up close as I’ve served alongside global leaders and pastors, and I have seen this from afar as I’ve noticed the health of leaders in different congregations or ministries deteriorate quickly. I have watched as “offer up your body as a living sacrifice” has somehow become equated with “run your body to the ground in the name of the Kingdom.”
We have been made with a mission. From the very beginning, we have been called to proclaim the name of Jesus to the ends of the Earth. Unfortunately, we have also been made with limitations of the flesh. This means we have to sleep, eat, exercise, and all that other dumb stuff. And crazily enough, the Lord doesn’t think this is dumb stuff. God knowingly made us with limitations of the flesh. He intentionally made us with a beautiful, mysterious combination of both body and spirit.
In 1 Kings 19, a prophet named Elijah is running from an evil queen named Jezebel, who has made it her mission to have him killed. Elijah’s life was anointed in a big way. He was the last remaining prophet of God during a time when everyone around him, including other prophets, were turning to other idols. Needless to say, Elijah was in a little bit of a stressful situation not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. He runs for his life for days in the desert and eventually collapses in the shade of a broom bush wanting just to die. 1 Kings 19:4 (MSG) says,
“He came to a lone broom bush and collapsed in its shade, wanting in the worst way to be done with it all—to just die: ‘Enough of this, God! Take my life—I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave!’ Exhausted, he fell asleep under the lone broom bush. Suddenly, an angel shook him awake and said, ‘Get up and eat!’”
Elijah woke up and next to him was a baked loaf of bread on some coals and a jar of water. He ate it and went back to sleep. But the angel came back. Verse seven says, “The angel of God came back, shook him awake again, and said ‘Get up and eat some more—you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.’” So Elijah ate and drank and, “nourished by that meal” (1 Kings 19:8), set out for his journey, which was forty days and nights.
I’ve said before this is one of my all-time favorite Bible stories... because when God sent an angel down to care for Elijah, He didn’t send an angel to give him a pep talk. The angel didn’t say, “Hey, don’t kill yourself; you are a prophet of God!” The angel didn’t provide any commentary or criticism. In fact, the angel didn’t say anything except, “Get up and eat!” which is how I know this story relates intimately to me. I know it to be true in my own life that when I am completely at the end of my rope—when my capacity has been stretched far beyond what’s reasonable— sometimes I don’t need someone to give me a bunch of encouragement and reasoning. As great as it is to hear, “Hey, don’t give up on this, you are capable, and your identity is in Jesus, and you are worthy, etc., etc., etc.” sometimes I just need someone to say, “You know what, why don’t you come over to our place for dinner tonight?” Sometimes I just need someone to say, “Go rest,” or “Go for a walk,” or “Eat a snack” (usually it’s the last one).
Our mental, emotional, and even spiritual states often are tied deeply to our physical state. This is why being hangry is a thing. This is why I start getting grumpy when I haven’t exercised for too long. This is why it’s dangerous sometimes to have emotional, difficult conversations late at night when you are exhausted.
My other favorite part of this story is that the angel didn’t wake up Elijah, feed him, and send him on his way. He woke him up, fed him, let him rest some more, woke him up again, fed him again, and then told him, “you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.” The Lord let Elijah fully physically recoup. He prepared his body so He could begin to prepare his heart, mind, and spirit.
So we have to strike that balance. There will be seasons where our capacity may be stretched more than ever before. There will be seasons where we are called to rest more than what we’ve ever seen as normal. Most seasons though, I think that we are just called to know ourselves and the Spirit within. We are called to know when to keep pushing and running onward, when to collapse into the shade of a bush, when to rest and eat, and when to pick ourselves back up and keep going. We are called to know when to say no to things even if we feel obligated, when to turn things down even if we’d really like to go (or when to go to things even if we’d really like to not), and when to accept help even if our pride doesn’t want it.
We are all in this strange life-race together, and, unfortunately, we are all training in the middle of the race itself. Luckily, it is not the speed at which we finish that matters. Hebrews 12:1-2a (ESV) says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Jesus is the great stabilizer. He is the best example of solitude but also of generous hospitality, of grace but also of truth, of jubilee but also of solemnity, of kingship but also of servanthood. He is the beautiful paradox who has laid the way for us.
And honestly, the whole “moderation” thing feels pretty paradoxical. How does one give their life fully and completely to the Lord and sharing His News? How does one do so while also fiercely cherishing and protecting the vessel given for that very purpose?
I have no freakin’ clue. It has been an uphill fight for me to create a lifestyle that isn’t a vicious cycle of non-sustainability. But I’m working on it. Yesterday was a day filled with hiking, lots of healthy food, a nap, and fellowship with friends. Today was a day filled with some walking, mostly healthy food but also probably five-too-many dark chocolate peanut butter cups, and staring at a computer screen for most of the day. I will always and forever be fighting for my soul and my body. I will always and forever be making adjustments to the swinging pendulum of both sides of crazy. And so I will always and forever be looking to the center of the paradoxes—to the person of Jesus—in an effort to land as close to the middle as I can.