Jesus is the Bread of Life: “He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” How much do we value that promise in an Atkins world? For many modern Americans (including me) hunger isn’t really a problem — we worry more about fullness. The Bread of Life seems to be a quaint topic when we’re all wondering whether we need to go on a diet. Is it possible to worry about hunger in 2006? Does it even make sense to ask for bread in today’s Atkins world?
More has changed than the perception of bread — in America in 2006, the very perception of hunger has changed. In centuries past, hunger was an implacable enemy. Today, however, many people want to be hungry. Sports slogans tell us to “stay hungry”; Bruce Springsteen concurs (with some help from the “E” street band). If we’re supposed to stay hungry, then what can we do with this bread of life which will fill us forever?
I wonder, is the hunger for hunger something that Christ can fill? Can he quell the unique insatiability that comes from being too full? And I think, though I don’t know, that the answer is yes. It’s a different challenge than the ones our forebears faced. They worried about their day to day survival; we worry about ennui and boredom in a post-Fight-Club world.
And yet, we read in the 23rd psalm: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. And I think – I hope – that that ultimately includes a freedom from wanting to want. Does the “goodness and mercy” that follow the righteous include some level of spiritual “job satisfaction,” some level of freedom from ennui and fulfillment in a bored world? I hope so.
The world has changed since the days when Isaiah wrote: “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” The concept of letting our souls delight in fatness seems outdated and strange. And yet we still see those who spend money for that which is not bread, and labor for that which satisfieth not — too often, I see one such person every morning as I shave.
(The Second Nephi account of Isaiah subtly alters the message: “Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness.” Our role is to hearken to God’s words; our reward will be one that perisheth not and cannot be corrupted.)
The metaphors may change, but I still find that I am most at peace when I come to Christ, when I let myself be filled with the Bread of Life, and when I stop worrying about hunger, or hunger for hunger, or hunger for hunger for hunger. I think that Christ can satisfy, even in today’s world where people don’t always want to be satisfied.
The Bread of Life fills, and it also turns us toward a new hunger, a hunger that will push us in the most exciting possible direction. It is not the case that in Christ, our every hunger and desire satiated, done away with, and gone, and that we become fat and slothful couch potatoes. The Bread of Life makes us realize the insignificance of earthly hunger, and allows us to concentrate on the greatest race of all. Do we seek a challenge? Do we want to stay hungry? What greater challenge is there than attaining eternal life? And what greater hunger can there be than the hunger to return to our Heavenly home, and to progress onward from there? This challenge is sufficiently daunting that we can only focus on it when we partake of the Bread of Life, for only then are we at peace.
We stumble at times in our race back home; we tire; sometimes, perhaps, we interact negatively with the local fauna. We pick ourselves up, and continue the race. The Bread of Life fills us, yes – and allows us to focus on the greatest hunger of all. The gospel brings peace and tranquility in this world, fills us, and allows us to focus on eternity. Our hunger for eternal life propels us onward.