Immediately images flash before my eyes of hollowed-eyed victims in concentration camps and tiny children from third world countries laying limply in their mother’s arms.
Starvation. A cruel word, and for millions of people, not just a word or picture but the harsh reality of their present circumstances – living and dying malnourished. For the Cherokee, the journey west to designated Indian Territory was called the Nunahi-Duna-Dlo-Hilu-I, roughly translated into English as “The trail where they cried.” Thousands died along the way, many from starvation.
As I continue to walk my own trail of tears, I have discovered another kind of starvation just as deadly, yet unseen by the naked eye. Scarcity, unforeseen tragedies, disappointment, and betrayal can depleat our souls of innocence and security, leaving us scrambling like beggars for scraps of hope along the way.
There is a certain deprivation of soul new to me since my husband died. I find I am always unconsciously searching, grasping, reaching for him, but unable to touch. My body groans with hunger pains, signaling my heart that it is in need of affection, nourishment, love. I frantically try satisfying my yearning with distractions – anything to take away the ache – but the hunger is unquenchable.
Pressing my hand against his picture, I trace the contour of his face, staring into his chocolate brown eyes, craving another chance to kiss his dimples, stroke his forehead. I long for the warmth of his embrace, the security of his strong arms wrapped around me, pulling me in, stopping me, stilling me, steadying me once again.
Doesn’t anyone see that I am starving?
Desperation drives me to my knees, and once again I cry out to the only One who can fill me with purpose and passion. My stomach tightens as I heave, hurling a torrent of emotions into heaven like a thunderbolt of lightning.
“I need you Jesus. Not a fake plastic version of you – selling lies that this world and everything in it is what you came to give me – but the real you. Give me sustenance, something tangible to sustain me,” I scream. Movies, social media, a bottle of wine, books, make-up, another pair of shoes, binge watching Tom Selleck – nothing and no one can take away the angst and emptiness I now feel. At the end of it all, I still climb into an empty bed and cry myself to sleep.
Inspite of my shouting, I heard his distinct voice, “bread.”
Instantly my mind races back to the night before my husband died. Feeling restless, he asked Jason, one of our sons-in-love to carry him to the hot tub for water therapy. It was nearly 4 a.m. Though outwardly he was skin and bones, his inward man beamed with health and life spilling forth rivers of living water. Jason held him closely, drinking in the very last words his dad would ever say to him.
“Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” said Tyvin.
I ask myself why out of all the bible verses he knew, would he chose that one? Perhaps it was because Father God knew that we would need to be reminded of where true peace, hope, and life come from, preparing us for the dark days ahead.
Tyvin knew that the depths of hunger and thirst I feel, you feel for connection – for divine encounters with a God who loves us, intimately cares for us – cannot be met by worldly sources.
Our stomachs, our hearts, are depleted of nutrients as the result of sin. Apart from an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ we are nothing more than scavengers feasting on road-kill.
As I write this, the presence of God washes over me again and again with the truth of His Word, and for just a moment I don’t feel the gnawing sensation of hunger. I feel satisfied.
Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The one who comes to Me will never be hungry, and the one who believes in Me [as Savior] will never be thirsty [for that one will be sustained spiritually].” John 6:35 (AMP)
Nun Ahi-Duna-Dlo-Hilu-I. I must continue to walk my personal “trail of tears” but not alone. With each step, whether stumbling or falling, scaling new peaks or trudging through the sludge of overwhelming sadness, I am held up. Today I choose to connect with Jesus, the source of life. I choose to believe that God has not forsaken me. Today.
Tomorrow when I wake up I’ll have to fight the battle all over again, but that’s tomorrow. Who knows? He might have a piece of toasted bread waiting for me, Tyvin’s favorite breakfast.
Original painting by Coryn Richey of Brighter Days Art