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Soul Food
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Soul Food

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BY SANDY MAYLE

My brother-in-law trained at Ballymaloe
Cookery School in Ireland and later became a cooking instructor and personal chef. David has a passion for working with food. After observing him in meal preparation, my mother once commented, “He handles the food as though it’s almost sacred.” 

I, on the other hand, do not share his passion for meal preparation. As I make dinner for my husband and myself, I’m not exactly slapping the meat and veggies around, but I’m treating them as a means to an end.  

In truth, what best motivates me to cook (along with responsibility) is appetite. A desire for food. Hunger. Because of appetite, I’m drawn to the kitchen, I’m opening doors and drawers, I’m pulling out ingredients in anticipation of a satisfying meal.  

There’s another kind of appetite.

When Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4), he was talking about the nourishment of our inner being. Spiritual appetite is a heart-craving for God, and a healthy spiritual appetite makes us hungry for the Word of God. For “soul food.” 

God caters to hearty appetites. In the Old Testament, he invited repeatedly,  

  • Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” (Isa. 55:1) 
  •  “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” (Ps. 81:10) 
  • If my people would only listen to me… you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” (Ps. 81:13–16) 

And those who sat at his table declared, 

  • When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” (Jer. 15:16) 
  • How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103) 
  • Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8) 

Feeding on his words turned out to be a feast and a delight. God had not called them to the crust and the crumb. 

And he doesn’t today.  

Here I am!” Jesus says. “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Rev. 3:20). By the Holy Spirit who enters us at salvation, this promise is reality, not just metaphor. 

Ours is the invitation to intimate deep-feasting on the written Word in the company of the Living Word. Ours is the promise of soul-banqueting, as the Holy Spirit takes the things of Christ and makes them known to us (John 14:26).   

Day after day, then, we come to the table of God, to the Scriptures. Unworthy to collect the crumbs from under his table, still we bow our heads and pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” and open our eyes, and there before us–soul food 

Delivered by the Holy Spirit, hand-shaped by ancient scribes, plated on parchment and leather, topped by fragrant, steaming curls of invitation, the Word of God beckons us: “Come and dine!”  

Dine on fresh, warm Bread of Life, sweetest Honey from the Rock, tenderest prime of Living Word, choicest wine of Calvary. Milk and honey and the finest of wheat!  

Dine on Old Testament stories meat-filled, on psalms sauced with praise and prayer, on farfalled proverbs, on rotelle-prophecies wheeling down the ages, on grace-stuffed gospels, on epistles spaetzled and savory–His table stretches infinite, an all-you-can-eat buffet of comfort food, starching spine and energizing trust and sending us on our way again and again, filled and fortified. 

What a heavy-laden table lies before us! Do we come ravenous to the Word, to be astounded by savor, to revel in richness? Do we come craving?  

Spiritual appetite makes us the baby bird in its nest, beak wide open; the infant searching frantically for the breast; the child rushing to the table; the homeless man hurrying in from the icy chill to sit down to a bowl of hot soup and fragrant fresh bread; the woman savoring that first bite, eyes closed in contentment, unable to believe the juices of joy and delight trickling down the insides of her soul  

As she tucks into the Word and feasts in her heart by faith with thanksgiving–deeply satisfied, yet deeply hungering for more… 

More soul food. 

* * * 

But what if we’re not her? What if we’re not there right now? What does that mean and how can we become hungry again?   

Lack of appetite is concerning in the soul as well as the body. If it persists, it can lead to spiritual weakness and malnutrition. Causes for low spiritual appetite include busyness, sin and guilt, physical or spiritual weariness, worry, and self-sufficiency. Allow the Lord to pinpoint the cause of low appetite for his Word.   

That being done, here are some additional ways to stimulate your soul’s appetite: 

  • Prayerfully choose an appetite-whetting verse (such as Ps. 119:18, Ps. 119:97, or Jer. 15:16) and make it your prayer in this season. 
  • Consider a physical fast, praying to hunger and thirst after righteousness.  
  • What about junk food? Ask: Am I indulging competing and carnal appetites that fill me with empty, even harmful, substance 
  • Don’t wait till you’re hungry to eat. Without being legalistic, keep stubbornly showing up for Feast.  
  • Never eat alone; recognize and welcome the Spirit of Christ. 
  • Ask the Spirit to lead you to the Scripture you need each day. 
  • Try eating less, more often–meditate on a single verse or phrase or word in the Bible. 
  • Eat more of your favorites. Feast on the Psalms; browse in Philippians… 
  • Burn the calories! Put truth into action. Disobedience, even procrastination, and the accompanying guilt is a real appetite-killer. 
  • Eat new combinations: as the Spirit leads, use a different Bible version, focus on the words of Christ (in some bibles, written in red), read through the Bible, or study a topic… 

And always handle the food as though it’s sacred. It is. 

This article was first published in the October 2019 issue of Woman Alive.