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. Having observed him in meal preparation many times, 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 prepare dinner for my husband and myself, I’m not exactly slapping the meat and veggies around, but I definitely do not treat the ingredients as sacred; I treat them as a means to an end.

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.

But, because we are not only physical bodies but also spiritual souls, 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’” (Matthew 4:4 NIV); 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” (Isaiah 55:1).
• “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it” (Psalm 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” (Psalm 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” (Jeremiah 15:16).
• “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).
• “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

Feeding on his words, ruminating on them, savouring, swallowing, letting them do his work within – it all turned out to be a feast and a delight. God had not called to the crust and the crumb. And he doesn’t today.

At Jesus’ birth, the promise was “God with us”. Since Pentecost the promise has been, “God within us”. For “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” (Revelation 3:20). By the Holy Spirit who enters us at salvation, this promise is a reality and not just a metaphor; a grace-gift, not anything we can deserve.

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

Day after day, then, we may come to the table of God, to the Scriptures. And there, whether skeletoned and near-fainting, or round and sleek, our souls are drawn by the wafts from heaven’s kitchen as the Spirit of Christ holds wide the pages.

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, handshaped 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; psalms sauced with praise and prayer; farfalled proverbs; rotelle-prophecies wheeling down the ages; on grace-stuffed Gospels, on epistles spaetzled and savoury – his table stretches infinitely, an all-you-can-eat buffet of comfort food, starching spine, energising trust and sending us on our way, again and again, filled and fortified.

Sisters, what a heaping plate, what a heavy-laden table is ours! Do we come ravenous to the Word, to be astounded by savour, to revel in richness? “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2,3). Do we come craving?

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 or the homeless man coming in from the icy chill to sit down to a bowl of hot soup and fragrant fresh bread.

We are like the woman savouring – eyes closed in contentment – the bite of a meal she didn’t have to prepare herself, couldn’t have prepared so well, who even now can’t believe the tenderness and 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 …

Whetting the appetite

Lack of appetite can be a spiritual problem as well as physical. If it persists, it can lead to weakness and spiritual malnutrition.

Causes for low spiritual appetite include busyness, mindlessness, interruptions, distractions, sin and guilt, physical or spiritual weariness, worry, lack of surrender, doubt, pride and self-sufficiency. It is worthwhile to sit with the Lord awhile and allow him to search your heart for the cause of low appetite for God’s Word.

This being fully addressed, here are some additional ways to stimulate your soul’s appetite:

• Prayerfully choose an ‘appetite verse’ (such as Psalm 119:18, Psalm 119:97, Jeremiah 15:16) and make it your prayer in this season.

• Consider a physical fast, praying to hunger and thirst after righteousness.

• Might you be filling up on junk food? Curb your excesses (media, entertainment, etc). Ask: Am I indulging competing and carnal appetites that fill me with empty, even harmful, substance?

• Without being legalistic, keep stubbornly showing up to feast. Don’t wait till you’re hungry to eat.

• Never eat alone; recognise and welcome the Spirit of Christ.

• Ask the Spirit to lead you to the Scripture you need each day.

• Try eating less and more often. Bite off less at a time, perhaps meditating on a single verse or phrase or word in the Bible.

• Eat more of your favourites (for instance, for many nothing tastes as good as the Psalms in tough times).

 Burn the calories! Put truth into action; do what God’s been asking you to do. Disobedience, even procrastination, and the accompanying guilt is a real appetite-killer.

• Eat new combinations – as the Spirit leads; perhaps 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.

Sandy Mayle is a freelance writer based in Erie, Pennsylvania