Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Blessed Are the Hungry

Although pictures from recent years may make it hard to believe, I used to be a fat kid. Sixteen years ago, I enrolled in Weight-Watchers and lost about sixty pounds (and I grew three inches) so that I went from being 5'6" 215 pounds to 5'9" and 155 pounds. I mention this because of all of the lines in Scripture, one from today's Gospel brings back the worst memories: Blessed are you who are now hungry. 

To this day, I hate the feeling of being hungry. When I was trying to lose weight, it took a lot of training to keep my mind from wandering to the next meal, to the next snack. What it took me a long time to learn that dieting wasn't about limiting food intake. Instead, it was about re-learning how to think about food. Food, for me, had become sort of the structure of my day...and, apparently, I very much enjoyed that structure! What dieting gave me was an opportunity to break out of that structure and to move from "living to eat" to "eating well in order to live well."

When I read the Beatitudes, what strikes me is that the very people Jesus is calling blessed are the people we typically regard as not having their lives together. Those who mourn, those who hunger, those who are persecuted: each of these is the type of person who has had life's structures pulled away from them, exposing them to the elements of life. Where one had comfort, one now has a gaping hole. Where external supports or structures gave one a place in this world, without them the person feels loss and discombobulated. Where one used to be self-sufficient, one now needs a savior.

Compare this to those to whom Jesus directs the "Woes." These are all the people for whom the structures of this world are still firmly in place, those who are kept safe and secure and comfortable. These are the people who are easily seduced into believing that they alone are responsible for their success. These are the self-sufficient, those who need no one but themselves.

Deep down, I'll always be a fat kid. Yet, it is by recognizing that I don't have my whole life together that I am able to embrace the daily discipline of proper diet and exercise. There's a certain joy in this: since I wholly own that I'm very often a mess, I can be open to those others who call me toward something greater, who draw me toward being a better self. Owning the cracks and fissures in my life lets in the light of grace and gives me a path to walk as a disciple.

Our culture places such a premium on, as it might be said crudely, having ones s*#t together. Perhaps each of us might do well to evangelize culture by starting with ourselves, by realizing where we are broken and in need of healing, and how each of us calls out for a savior. As I've come to know myself, I've come to know it's not Dr. Phil, or Dr. Oz, or even Oprah who will bring me the healing I need. The healing I desire comes from, and can only come from, the author of life itself and the One he sent that we might know his love. 
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