Hunger is hell

— Mae Mu on Unsplash

Have you heard the Jewish fable of the long-handled spoons? A spiritual seeker asks a guru about heaven and hell, and the guru takes the seeker down a long hall. The guru opens a door and the seeker looks in. In the middle of the room is a large round table, and in the middle of the table is a large pot of stew, which smells delicious, looks hearty and makes the seeker’s mouth water.

The people sitting around the table are thin and sickly – in the midst of an astounding meal, they look famished. These people are holding spoons with very long handles strapped to their arms. The handles are so long that everyone at the huge table can reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful.

But these handles are longer than their own arms, and they cannot get the spoons to their mouths.

The seeker shudders at the sight of their misery and suffering, and the guru says, “You have seen hell.”

They go back into the hall and open the door to the next room. The scene is exactly the same as the first: a large round table with a brimming pot of fragrant stew. The people around this table have the same long-handled spoons attached to their arms, but they are well-nourished and plump, laughing and talking.

The seeker looks to the guru for explanation. “It’s so simple,” says the guru. “In heaven we learn to feed each other.”

heart-shaped pancake on a white plate
— Glen Carrie on Unsplash

Food is one of our first teachers in life. We learn through our mother’s breast or through snuggling into loving arms that hold a bottle: food makes us feel better. Food is a language of love.

Thankfully, as babies most of us got food and love in one intimate embrace, and those moments taught us to form attachments with other people throughout the rest of our lives.

But there’s danger in food equaling love. We can reach for food more simply than we can share our deepest feelings with another person. We can turn to food more easily than we can fall in love. We can feed ourselves more quickly than we can love ourselves.

When food equals love, it’s hard to figure out what our hunger is telling us. Hunger is one of those unpleasant experiences that is supposed to be uncomfortable, so we’re compelled to act. Like pulling a muscle or getting a sunburn, when the pain of hunger comes, it’s time to stop and deal with it.

How often do you feel hungry? In an average week, how many times do you think your stomach growls? Most of us eat before we actually feel hungry, eating instead because it’s mealtime, because other people are eating, because we want a break from work, because there’s food available, because we’re craving a certain thing, because we’re lonely or bored or tired or sad.

Most of us reading Anabaptist World aren’t chronically hungry (unless we’re dieting or fasting), but half a million people in Gaza are. The list continues: 2.5 million people in the Central African Republic are, 14.2 million in Afghanistan are, 14.6 million in Bangladesh are  . . . and climate catastrophe and violence will only send these numbers higher. (For more on world hunger, see

We urgently need Jesus’ miracles. To lift and bless the bread, breaking it and passing to the left and to the right, proclaiming radical equality. To lift and bless the bread, inspiring trust so that all share, all eat and there are baskets left over.

As you eat today, take time to pray for those who are hungry. Pray for those who are hungry for love, those who are starving for justice. Sing or pray:

God bless to us our bread, and give bread to those who are hungry, and hunger for justice to those who have bread. God bless to us our bread.

Bendice, Señor, nuestro pan, y da pan a los que tienen hambre y hambre de justicia a los que tienen pan. Bendice, Señor, nuestro pan.

And savor the sweetness of summer and plenty with Lemon Maple Zucchini Bread:

3 eggs
1 cup pure maple syrup (or less for taste/health)
1/2 cup oil (pick your favorite)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
1 1⁄2 cups grated zucchini or yellow summer squash
1 1⁄2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (or substitute)
1 cup whole
wheat flour (or substitute)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease a 5- by 9-inch loaf pan and set aside.
  2. Beat the eggs with an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Gradually add the maple syrup, oil, vanilla and lemon zest. Stir in the zucchini.
  3. Combine the flours, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, then stir in the zucchini mixture. Blend just until smooth, then turn into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Anna Lisa Gross

Anna Lisa Gross grew up on a mini-commune of Christian hippies, who prefer to call themselves the Grosses and the Read More

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