In These Days Before Feasting, Hunger

The plea comes again: “Mommy, I’m so hungry!”

“We just ate,” I say.  I’ve tried this logic a hundred times.  Will a-hundred-and-one flip the switch?

“I’m still hungry!”  He’s desperate, pleading.

Did everything that makes me a mama just threaten to collapse?  What is this trembling and twisting within me?  Is it my heart breaking at being unable to appease this insatiable hunger?

So much of my perceived worth as a mother is wrapped up in this providing, satisfying, this feeding and filling bellies.  And that cry peppering my day accuses:  You are never enough.  You can never fill this need.  I know it’s a warped accusation, but I hear it all the same. I feel a wedge of tears building up inside my throat, and I feel desperate to be what I am not.

“Did you have any water today?  Maybe you’re dehydrated.”

“I hate water!”

I take a deep breath.  “I need you to drink some water before you have any other food.”

“I don’t want water!”

Oh, my son Ari, where do we go from here? I am in panic mode, because I know where things often end up. In his disrespect of my authority, there are consequences. Or if I give food at his first and every request, how long would this go on? Would he eat himself sick? I struggle with how much to control. At times, I may as well stand with lock and key at the kitchen cabinet for all the reproof I spew forth.

When Ari was three, we had him tested for food intolerances, and we were handed a list of over 30 foods to eliminate. I was daunted but determined to prevail and protect. At least with the knowledge of cooking and whole foods, we could survive this two-month protocol toward healing. But after two months, as we reintroduced foods into his par-healed gut, the reactions were confusing and questionable, and we landed in a sloggy bog of what to do next.

I hadn’t understood the allergy doctor’s protocol and the science behind it, so I began to study for myself. The book Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) blew my mind, as I learned about healthy gut bacteria, and how, the author purports, allergies and intolerances begin, and how the gut reacts to different types of food. The gentle, grain-free diet — reminiscent of diets of generations long past, before big business over-tinkered with food — looks so hopeful to this desperate mama.

But they are hopes laced with doubts. What if I can’t maintain the diet that’s so counter-cultural? What if the conclusions of the GAPS doctor’s research are wrong? And how can I stand up against the wagging heads of those who must see me as a radical dreamer, or worse yet, someone who makes trouble of nothing? I want to grab them by their shirt collars and hiss between my teeth, “Don’t you know what it’s like to be a mama?”

And below all of these, there’s another barrage of unanswered questions: What has happened in my son’s past that has carved his attitudes toward food? What mysteries still cannot be explained by a look inside Ari’s stomach? I have to keep coming back to the master designer who formed Ari’s stomach and mind, the God who walked with him as a baby before we could even attempt to give him our version of what was best for him.

And the third barrage perhaps strikes harshest of all: Why should I worry so intensely about food in a house of plenty? What do we know of hunger?

I remember what Jesus said on the mount, assuring us of our value as living creatures, creatures clothed and fed by His very hands. Don’t worry, He’s saying. Don’t worry. And what of my responsibility as a mama? It’s a bit crazy to think of not worrying about food at all. But I have to believe that it’s possible for the ones covered by the blood of the man who fed thousands from one small basket of food.  Jesus knows food.

Jesus asked His disciples to take the miracle-food and pass it around.  With what was in front of them they fulfilled their responsibilities. What Jesus asks me to do as a mama is always in light of my larger calling to let Him be the provider for my children.  I struggle to hold my authority and responsibility with an open hand — an open hand ready to receive the miracle of healing and nourishment that I cannot force into reality. I pray for open eyes to see our daily cornucopia. For even with my handfuls of questions, we are handed basketfuls of provision — food and drink and energy and new mornings — and they strengthen us to keep walking forward.

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