when we're spiritually hangry.

hangry

When I was last visiting my daughter in New York she started getting cranky because we hadn’t eaten and been walking all over town forever. She said, “Mommmmm, Feed me! I’m getting hangry!”

I get angry sometimes, too, when I’m hungry.

It’s that desperate feeling like I better get some food now before I go off the deep end. My husband, Jose, thinks it’s kind of funny but the truth is funny is not the word I would use to describe it in the moment.

This past Sunday night at The Refuge we processed some of the core ideas from Faith Shift together at our service. A dear friend texted me afterward that she loved the conversation and realized how she was “spiritually hangry.” It made me laugh out loud.

It is such a great description for so many of us!

When it comes to faith shifts and losses in our spiritual journey, we are definitely hangry.

We’re often angry and hungry at the same time.

Sometimes the anger is directed toward the church. We’ve been hurt by systems that we gave our heart to and don’t want anything to do with it. Leaders betrayed us. The places that once fostered a sense of belonging and connection now feel lonely and empty.

Other times, our anger is directed toward God. Where in the $(&@&!! is God in our shifting faith? Why can’t we hear him, feel him, experience him anymore? Why does God let such crazy stuff happen in his name?

And then often we’re mad at ourselves. Why did we leave church? Why did we stay? How did we check some of our logic at the door? How did we lose so much of ourselves in order to belong?

When I’m mad at people or things, the last thing I want to do is move toward them. In those moments, I want to harden my heart, build my case, steel myself, protect myself, do absolutely-anything-i-can-to-not-let-myself-get-hurt-again.

But what happens when at the same time we’re angry about some of the things that have happened to us spiritually that we’re also hungry?

When we long for spiritual connection with God again.

When our souls feel dry and we don’t know how to find water.

When we’re tired of what my friend Stacy calls “spiritual anorexia” where we’re withering away spiritually but can’t find any nourishing food to eat.

What happens when we’re spiritually hangry?

What are our options?

Oh, this is always the part where it would be so much easier if there were a list of 10 sure ways to satisfy our spiritual h-anger or a magic pill we could take that could easily transition us out of a season of spiritual desert after a long season of our faith unraveling.

But alas, it never seems to work that way.

It does seem, though, that there are some possibilities to consider to help us with our spiritual hangriness:

It’s always so good to process some of our anger. It’s not a sin. It’s real. It’s human. It can be a propelling emotion. It also is a big part of grief, which is a core element of a lot of our faith shifts. Some of these posts about anger can help vent a little, but really, anything we can do to allow honesty helps. It’s also good to remember we don’t have to get all of our anger issues squared away before we can re-connect with God. That another good part of paradox–we can be angry at and hungry for God at the same time.

Find something, anything, that works to get some spiritual food. To me, anything that brings hope, light, joy, love, peace is a signal it’s the right direction. Sometimes we think certain kinds of food are more “spiritual” than others (the Bible, church, etc.) when really, if we break down the lines between the sacred and the secular we can find God in all kinds of surprising places–art, music, nature, friendship, quiet, creative endeavors, helping others, and more. Contrary to what we may have been taught, it can be enough; noticing this as satisfying food instead of dismissing it as a snack can be really helpful.

Grieve the loss of inspiration addiction because it’s probably not coming back. I personally think one of the reasons we get so hangry is that if we came from a certain kind of evangelical/charismatic background, we are used to a certain kind of spiritual high. When our faith deconstructs, we at first are glad to shed it. The problem is that once it’s gone, we don’t know what we’re exactly looking for when it comes to new spiritual connection. Is it supposed to feel like that again in a different way? Or is it completely new? For me, spiritual connection has radically changed. The high has never even come close to returning. I have moments where things are stirred in my heart and soul that touch me in a deep way, but it is often so subtle, more a still, small voice that is sometimes tricky to hear.

Experiment. While finding what works helps, another thing can be open to trying new and interesting things you’ve never “eaten” before. Meet with a spiritual director, try a radically different kind of church experience or faith tradition, read a spiritual book that is out of our comfort zone, try something that feels foreign and see what happens. These experiments can help us feel less angry, more open, and can even bring some fun into it (part of the problem, too, is we are good at taking our faith seriously but not so good at playing with it). What if we engaged in some of these things with a lightness, a willingness to laugh with God at what we are learning and experiencing?

How do you identify with being spiritually hangry?

Anything that is helping meet your spiritual hangriness right now? It always helps to hear ideas from others.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

10 Comments

  • “Grieve the loss of inspiration addiction because it’s probably not coming back.”

    Thank you for articulating this aspect of my journey and validating my experience! Feels like God just whispered into my soul 🙂

    Reply
  • I think of an experience we had a few years ago. Friends invited us over for pie and coffee, which turned out to be a multi-level marketing presentation. When we arrived several people were looking at a large scrapbook and saying things such as “That’s my house. That’s my car. That’s where I’m going on vacation.”

    After a few minutes, they passed the scrapbook to us. It was filled with pictures of houses, cars and vacation destinations that had been cut out of magazines. They were only pretending. The idea was that if we would sell their products we would become rich enough to buy the stuff pictured.

    I thought about those people and their pretending when trying to find a church. We mostly found people sitting around pretending. Put another way, we found a restaurant with pictures but little or no food. Eventually we found Jesus, but sadly not in church. Not in religion.

    Reply
  • I loved this pargraph:
    Find something, anything, that works to get some spiritual food. To me, anything that brings hope, light, joy, love, peace is a signal it’s the right direction. Sometimes we think certain kinds of food are more “spiritual” than others (the Bible, church, etc.) when really, if we break down the lines between the sacred and the secular we can find God in all kinds of surprising places–art, music, nature, friendship, quiet, creative endeavors, helping others, and more.

    Nature and friendship has been a restorative presence for me in the past few months. I also plan on renewing my daily music sessions, playing the keyboard for relaxation, again. I stopped after Hurricane Katrina. It’s time to explore music as spiritual pathway again.

    Reply
  • thanks, dear christen. “mental monkeys”, love that image. yeah, i totally hear that voice, too “if you only…” but we both know it’s far more complicated than that. thanks for sharing that post, too. i really appreciated it. peace from across the miles..

    Reply
  • I can totally 100% relate … the perfect word for me right now that makes total sense… i am spiritually anorexic … there has been alot of shifts I went thru the last couple months … it’s a not a great exciting journey. ..

    Reply

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