As I sit to write this, my belly is like a lake after a week of rain. I have had three cups of coffee, a giant bottle of water, and I am debating a glass of lemonade. Last night I grazed on crackers and cheese before devouring a cheeseburger; and just 8 hours later, I am eating toast. The truth is “hunger” and “thirst” are words that have little meaning to me. In fact, if I were really honest, the things I actually hunger and thirst for have little to do with life and death sustenance and more to do with appearances and popularity. Embarrassing as it is, I am more “thirsty” for my children’s success than I am for water. I crave pretty things as much as I do food. And so when I read this verse that tells me happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, I know I must take time to go deep and think hard on what this means to a girl living in our swirling times of excess.
On the hillside thousands of years ago when Jesus spoke this verse to His disciples, hunger and thirst were real. Death by starvation was common, and people of that time had felt the deep and desperate pangs of hunger and thirst. So, when Jesus said happy are you when you need, crave, desire, when you depend on as if for life or death – righteousness, it got their attention. If we want this blessing, we must give it our attention also. But as a full-bellied American in 2015, it is hard to focus. This is when my God/Guide/Scripture Teller grabs my hand and walks me smack dab into the story. Side note: I love it when He does this.
This is what I see when I walk onto the scene. I see a Mom/wife /girly-girl who believes God is God and that Jesus is His son. She desires to be a “good” Christian, so she goes to church and Bible Study as much as she can. She wants to do and say the right things at the right times to the right people. She craves success in her mothering, with specific longing for good reputations in school and sports. She hungers for a skinny body (how ironic), and clothes that look magazine-worthy on said body. She thirsts for a home that is lovely, a ministry that is ‘successful’, a marriage that is happy, friends who love her, family who praise her and colleagues who esteem her. She has come away from her little world and sat down with Jesus on the hill and said, “Bless me.”
Jesus looks at this friend/girl/sister with eyes filled with love so great and understanding so deep that she almost wants to look away. It is too personal, too total – both His seeing her and His loving her. And He says, You are blessed, my daughter; but you will only receive this blessing to the extent that you desire me. I see the hungers and the thirsts of your heart. Those things will never fully satisfy. I am the thing you crave, I am what your heart is thirsting for. This woman/teacher/blogger stands before Jesus and it’s as if her hands are full of all the things she has been striving for, thirsting for, chasing after. He stands in front of her with His hands extended reaching for her as if to hug her in an embrace that will fill all the holes and then to guide her through a life of purpose. But in order for her to fall into the embrace, in order for her to take His hands in hers, she must lay down all the other desires, wants, cravings. She is faced with a choice. Who is she if she lays all that down? But who will she become if she does not?
In this verse, the righteousness we are to hunger for like a person starving is Jesus Christ. It is not a partial righteousness that can be found in showing up at church and doing good deeds. And it is not a small craving like wanting something sweet after we have had our salty. Ladies, this is talking about total desperate hunger for a total perfect Goodness. This is when we drop all the little accessories of life we cling to, that we think will make us who we are, and we RUN, EMPTY-FISTED, OPEN-HANDED into the arms and plans and love and perfect righteousness of Jesus. And it is there we find that we are satisfied and that we are indeed blessed.