Hunger and a Vessel

(note: I had much more to write and journal about. It’s delayed…life happens. This is a condensed version. I appreciate the kindness and gentleness I entrust pieces of my story to you all.)

In a 9th Confirmation class, I wrote, “Jesus could have dined with the elites, but he chose to dine with sinners.” I recognized Jesus was different and radical, even if I did not have the language for it. Jesus chose to dine with the outcast, with women, with people from all walks of life.  Jesus calls me into this same feast, where I am nourished by the Eucharist and am called to embody that call to be a Eucharistic believer – blessed, broken, and shared. That can only happen in community, and it is through communities and groups of women in which that has largely unfolded. Community is the sustenance and the locus of Boundless Love.

What is the primary injustice that makes me angry? Hunger. While it started in my little high school heart with a food drive collection for a local food bank, this expanded to an awareness, an opening of my heart and intellect to the realidad of global hunger. I boarded a plane alone in June 2008 to Chennai, India for an agricultural research internship. I spent two months there as a seventeen-year old white girl who had never traveled outside of the United States. My eyes opened wide, and my compassion muscle flexed and stretched and ached. I came back to the US jarred by the materialism in malls, frustrated and self-righteous that my high school friends didn’t give a lick about global politics, and felt overly confident that I was meant to change the world. This experience in Chennai profoundly shook me up in every way; I saw grinding poverty and more importantly, the people that were crushed by unjust economic, political, and social realities. I ached alongside the rural women I interviewed who entrusted their stories to me. I grappled with my own social location and what it all meant.

Now, I comprehend that thread of my “why” around hunger more broadly. I experience Eucharist in an embodied, authentic way – way beyond the wafers inside a cathedral. I witnessed the grief and joy and suffering of the crucified peoples, and a call to downward mobility, to really interrogate how God animates us to take people down from their crosses, and to examine our own. Only in a deeper grappling with my own woundedness and grief am I able to engage in this accompaniment. That grappling is not linear.  

This “why” of hunger stretches to spiritual hunger, of hunger for intentional community and mutuality, and has unfolded primarily in spaces of women.  I currently witness my own hunger and that of other women in ministry, whose manifold gifts are not fully celebrated or utilized to build God’s reign. I experienced hunger for community in the wake of immediate loss and as I continue to grieve my dad, aunt, grandma, and others. I witness the hunger of my students, who desire to be a part of faith communities and work for justice, claiming spirituality as their own. I am called to be a co-conspirator of the deeper work of nourishment.  In the past year, I presided as a priest/officiant at two friends’ weddings. It was one of the deepest honors of my life, and truly a feeling of rightness, to preach and preside at Elaina and Jessica’s wedding (yes, the Elaina LeGault here!).

Why Me?

This is what I have wrestled with most over the past 5 years. I wrestle with claiming my voice.  I also recognize that I sometimes hold resentment at my sensitive heart, that Jesus desires for my life a heart open to suffering and to light.  I wish sometimes that I could turn my brain and heart off to the immense suffering and brokenness around the world and in my own life. Yet, Jesus invites me to deeper vulnerability. I definitely feel a capacity to hold space for others, but struggle with finding that emotional and spiritual space for myself. When I am not well I remain in patterns of past woundedness, guarding my heart and distrustful that anyone would be interested in holding pieces of it with gentleness and care. In this woundedness I remain closed off to Jesus’ invitation. I feel deeply and feel a strong current to denounce injustices and protect the most vulnerable, yet grapple with my own vulnerability and holy anger. Can you tell I am an Enneagram 8? 🙂 . There is a greeting card that holds the inscription, “the people of God are in need of my gifts” from a cherished wisdom guide, Chris Rodgers. This mantra, while not fully answering the why, gets at the why me. I look back at previous experiences as a Eucharistic Minister, as a lector, as a preacher, and all of those just FEEL right. God invites me to be a vessel, to be a prophetic, joyful witness, to help us collectively imagine something anew.

3 thoughts on “Hunger and a Vessel

  1. So I opened my laptop, and your post just happened to be the first thing up. No coincidence, that. Lisa, thank you for entrusting to us this deeply alive, hurting, (dare I say, conflicted?) and blessed space where you dwell. As I grapple with my own next step which, as far as I can see (not far, but still . . .), may be about listening, your sharing opens up a fundamental question for entree into the experience of another: “For what do they hunger?” Not in general, but quite specifically. It is to be hoped that sheltering in place with its 24-hour news feed and quiet time unburdened by calendar events (Zoom notwithstanding) may provide to those with eyes to see and hearts sufficiently open the liminal space required for a kind of “Chennai” experience. It has surely done that for me. A sensitive, caring and compassionate heart open to the world may not seem like a gift, but it is a treasure beyond reckoning. I am reminded that the wounds of Jesus remained with him post-Resurrection, and like a finger-print, became the identifying mark by which his disciples knew him, and not just by observation. (Did Thomas actually dare to touch? Did he feel that beating heart?) So are we all invited the vulnerability of Jesus. His wounds are coterminous with his identity. To the extent that we are his disciples, by our wounds they will know us. Some days that is small comfort, but may it be comfort nonetheless. Peace and every blessing.

  2. Lisa, I appreciate how you have opened your heart to compassionately feeling people’s hunger. I imagine you understand the hunger which Jesus saw in people’s souls that would be nourished by the Eucharist. Of the various hungers you are seeing in your community, is there one in particular that calls out for more of your focused attention? If you could gather a wonderful group of people, is there are particular area where you would love to lead people into collectively imagining somethng new?

  3. Lisa,

    I noticed toward the end of your post that what feels most right to you is your responding, acting, and offering nourishment. What are your sources of nourishment? Where do they come from? Do they all require your participation?

    What is the deeper hunger you feel most called to address at this time?

    What is the relationship between the hunger you experience and your sense of call?

    Peace, friend!

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