I was hungry.
I was hungry, and I needed a biscuit.
I needed it through the sermon, through the final hymn, through the benediction.
It was a small need, but a fierce one.
I had a plan to make a subtle kind of beeline for the church hall to get my fix, casual but quick. It was almost Coffee Time. I would be ok.
There is a gap between God and I. It keeps me from the place where I can feel God, somewhere inside.
There is a bridge between God and I and it is broken.
“How deep are the cracks?” asks my Spiritual Director.
“They are deep” I answer quietly.
She draws it on her whiteboard: the gap, the bridge, the deep, jagged cracks. She draws me in the middle: earnest, lonely.
There was a comedy of errors at Coffee Time. I was delayed getting through the doors. My children needed to pee. My children ran off. People stopped me to talk.
When I finally reached the biscuit plate it was almost empty. My girls grabbed KitKats, and I paused, for a fleeting moment, to help them unwrap. A fleeting moment during which someone lifted the plate from beside my fingers and offered it around the room – out of reach.
It was obvious to nobody but me that I was about to eat one of those biscuits. That I needed to eat one of those biscuits.
I watched them disappear with a literal lump in my throat.
There is a gap between God and I. There is a bridge. There are cracks.
I have skills at avoiding those cracks, at pretending they’re not there.
I have ideas about filling those cracks! I have Thoughts!
I am always disappointed.
There was a man who had been an invalid for 38 years and he lay by a pool. He lay with the sick and the blind and the paralysed, hoping for healing when the waters were stirred.
There was a man and he had nobody to help him. By the time he gets to the pool, “somebody else is already in.”
No one in the Church Hall would have begrudged me a biscuit, in fact any one of them would have gone to the kitchen to find me one, if they knew how hungry I was. But there was no way I could think of to communicate this need without sounding petty, and selfish, and ridiculous.
I resented my daughters their KitKats. I felt personally defeated several times when more biscuits appeared across the room, always gone before I could get one.
James K.A. Smith says that “discipleship is more a matter of hungering and thirsting than of knowing and believing” and yet we feel so embarrassed about our hunger and our thirst, like we are the only one with longing, like everyone else must already be full.
We see all these cracks in our knowing and our believing. And we are embarrassed, or panicked, or paralysed.
“Do you want to get well?” Jesus asks, and it seems like such a stupid question.
I was still hungry and I still needed a biscuit as I headed to the car and someone called my name.
I was a little angry at the blond girl in my arms, chocolate smudged on her satisfied face, when someone called my name.
I was not in the mood to talk to anyone when my minister called my name.
“Do you want some?” he asked, holding out the Toblerone he had used in the kids’ talk.
Did I WANT some?
He had no idea.
I slid into the car beside my husband, stuffing my face with triangular Swiss chocolate, and mumbling something about Emerson having just saved my life.
I was thinking, then, only of my immediate hunger and the unexpected Toblerone in my hands.
Later, though, as we look at the wonky bridge on her whiteboard, I tell the story to my Spiritual Director and she loves it and she tells me I need to write about it.
“He picked up his bedroll and walked off,” John tells us.
The pool wasn’t the source of hope after all. Jesus was.
The man’s hope must have flagged time after time. 38 years. Somebody else always getting in first.
The pool wasn’t the source of hope after all, but it was certainly part of the story.
“Do you want to get well?” asks Jesus.
“Do you want some?” asks my minister.
And it changes the story – the one where everyone else got a biscuit, the one where somebody else always got in the pool first.
There are some cracks in my knowing and my believing that my thinking can’t fix.
But I hunger and I thirst.
And I have this picture, now, of God – calling my name, offering me food.