Webster's Dictionary defines hunger as discomfort caused by a need for food or any strong desire.
I can vividly recall the first time I was truly hungry and unable to satisfy that hunger. It was September 12, 2001, and I found myself living in a homeless shelter with my two-year-old son. It was only my first night in the shelter, and I had arrived too late for dinner. Two days had passed since my last meal. I'd spent my final dollars to buy my son a Happy Meal.
I was sleeping in the bed next to my son when my stomach started growling loudly. It was 9:30 P.M., my usual snacking time. But for the first time in my life, I was unable to go to the fridge or cabinet and grab whatever I desired.
I buried my face in my pillow and wept. For someone used to instant gratification, this feeling of hunger came as a shock. I felt hungry and I wanted food. Now!
I thought about all the foods I had once indulged in. Visions of cheese, mashed potatoes and steak danced through my head. I repeated, almost like a chant, "I can't believe this. No food for two days." I lay curled up in a sweaty ball trying to ignore the stomach cramps. My body demanded something I could not supply. I started to sing songs, and recite movie lines. I tried anything to keep my mind off of my hunger.
Yet my stomach refused to cooperate. It continued to remind me that I had not fed it. I suddenly had an image of my stomach turning into the man-eating plant from the movie Little Shop of Horrors. But instead of singing, "Feed me, Seymour," my stomach sang, "Feed me, Shannon." I chuckled at the silliness of my thoughts. Surprisingly that humor brought me some relief.
In that moment I realized my hunger was temporary. Tomorrow morning I would eat at least three meals provided by the shelter. I thought, I have been hungry for only two days. What about people who have not eaten for weeks or even months? Instantly every infomercial and news segment on starving children or famine-stricken countries played in my mind.
It was a sobering reflection. I realized that my slight discomfort from going without food for two days could never compare to their daily struggle. Unlike them, I knew when I would receive my next meal.
The next morning I sat at the table for breakfast and decided this was the best meal I'd ever eaten. I prayed I would never feel the sharp pangs of hunger again.
Six years later I find myself at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) experiencing a different kind of hunger and loving every minute of it. This hunger comes from a strong desire to know God's Word. It's my desire to understand it. To inhale it. To digest it. I want to swim in it like an ocean. I have a thousand questions I need answered.
Attending DTS feels like winning a lifetime admittance to an all-you-can-eat buffet. The library is intoxicating. My mouth actually watered at the first sight of all the books on the shelves. The classes and interactions with my professors leave me wanting more. And I can honestly say, unlike the previous hunger, I pray this one will never end.
Shannon L. Owens is a former reporter who is in the Media and Communication program at Dallas Seminary.