My daughter lovingly calls me "the toddler," because of my need to eat "every two hours," or so she says. She draws a parallel between the round little puppy in Disney's 101 Dalmatians and me, though not because I share his body shape. During one scene in the movie, the little fellow approaches his mother beseechingly and states, "I'm hungry, Mother, really I am!" I borrow this line often to express my need for a bite to eat.

I've found that if too much time elapses between meals, I get shaky, weak, sweaty, and nauseous. Hypoglycemia sets in as my body runs out of fuel. Since I work as a dental hygienist and use sharp tools in patients' mouths, it is in everyone's best interest to keep the shakes to a minimum. Nervous to begin with, a patient's anxiety level significantly increases if I approach them with pointy instruments and trembling hands. And so I try to eat regularly, especially when I am hungry.

This evening I felt that familiar empty ache beginning. Instead of coming from my stomach, however, it came from higher up in my chest cavity. Instead of feeling drawn to my refrigerator or cupboard, I felt myself yearning for sustenance of a different type. After a bit of introspection, I realized that I wasn't craving physical food like an apple or a cookie; I was craving spiritual food.

This morning, after a late night, I chose to sleep in. Instead of making time for my usual Bible reading and prayer time before I got out of bed, I hit the ground running.  Shower, breakfast, laundry, computer work. I packed my youngest off to college, prepared for a literature class I was teaching that afternoon, took a walk with Winston, and soon it was time for my husband to come home.  Dinner preparations, kitchen clean up, a few more emails to answer, and bedtime was fast approaching.

It was then that I realized, despite the substantial dinner I had enjoyed, that I was hungry-- spiritually hungry. Because I eat physical meals on a regular basis, I begin to crave food when I miss a meal. Similarly, because I eat spiritual meals on a regular basis (Bible reading, prayer time, Sunday and Wednesday worship), I begin to crave spiritual food when I miss a "meal." Just like eating physical food satisfies my body's need for nourishment, consuming spiritual food meets my soul's need for nourishment.  When I skip a meal, my soul hungers.

And so I turned beseeching eyes to my Father and said, "I'm hungry, Father, really I am."

"Open  your mouth wide," said the Lord, "and I will fill it" (Psalm 81:10).

Joining Him at His spiritual banquet table, I feasted with my Father.

Why, I wondered later, do we starve ourselves when there is a bountiful table spread before us?

Had I ignored the rumbling emptiness of my soul today, it would have been easier to ignore the spiritual hunger pains tomorrow. If I continued to plow through my days without taking time to eat from my Father's table, the hunger pains would have grown more and more faint, and eventually stopped all together.

After many days of starvation, prisoners in German concentration camps during World War II testified that they no longer experienced hunger. Once they were freed and began to receive medical care, most patients had to be forced to eat because they no longer had the natural desire for food. Similarly, I wonder how often we ignore our spiritual hunger pains to the point of starvation?

If you've been too busy to "eat," lately, would you join me in gathering around our Father's table and enjoying the feast He has prepared for us?

"And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst'" (John 6:35).

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