Check out the latest “Heart Matters” insights from Phil Vischer.
Hunger. It’s a bad thing, right?
I’ve set up my life to avoid hunger at all costs. I’ve got snacks around the house. I’ve got snacks around my office. Sometimes I’ve even got snacks around my person—wasabi almonds stowed in my backpack. You know, for emergencies. Because hunger is just plain bad.
But what if it isn’t? What if, in some contexts, hunger is vital?
September 2, 1930. Missionary Frank Laubach is sitting atop a hill with his dog, Tip, overlooking the town of Lanao in the Philippines. He feels God directing his attention to the town spread before him, and he hears God speak.
“You must awaken hunger there, for until they hunger they cannot be fed.”
That’s what God told Frank, sitting there with his dog. Until they hunger, they cannot be fed. Hunger for what? Salty snacks? Wasabi almonds? No. For eternity. For transcendence. For answers to life’s biggest questions: Why am I here? What is my purpose? Is this world all there is? Until they hunger for eternity, they cannot be fed.
Frank’s experience made me think about our kids—the kids you minister to face to face and I minister to through talking vegetables or puppets or whatever else I can get my hands on. Our world is intent on reducing our kids’ hunger for the divine. The metaphysical. The immaterial. Just as our physical hunger pangs are easily quashed with salty snacks and high fructose corn syrup, our eternal hunger pangs are reduced or eliminated entirely by an endless stream of distraction.
Sports. Apps. Social media. Reality TV. Movies. Video games. Noise. Lights. Music. Selfies. Limited edition collectible action figures. Kardashians. Football games as religious experiences. Theme park firework shows as religious experiences. Broadway musicals as religious experiences.
To paraphrase the oft-quoted C.S. Lewis, it isn’t that we want too much, it’s that we settle for too little. Our kids want transcendence and purpose, and our world stuffs them full of high fructose corn syrup and salted nut rolls until they shut up and get back in line. And sometimes we as parents and leaders are so equally satiated by the world’s carnival of distraction that we completely forget just how otherworldly the life of a Jesus follower is meant to be.
To put it plainly, our kids cannot hunger for Jesus when they’re too stuffed and distracted to hunger for anything.
So what do we do?
We create space. I lose touch with my own body when I never allow myself to feel physical hunger. Likewise, our kids lose touch with their spiritual selves—their true selves—when they’re never given the space to feel spiritual hunger. Space to ask big questions. Space to wonder. Space to feel (gasp!) small.
The modern world is an all-you-can-eat buffet, perfectly designed to keep us content, compliant, and flat on our backs. We need to carve out space in our lives and our ministries for kids to ask big, meaningful questions, loud and long enough to hunger for the answers.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat some nuts.
Phil Vischer created VeggieTales to teach Christian values to kids in 1990 when he was 24, and he sold more than 50 million videos. Today, he pursues innovative ways to integrate faith and storytelling through series such as Buck Denver Asks…What’s in the Bible? and the all-new Galaxy Buck (philvischer.com).