Hungry Hungry Hippos

When I was a kid, one of my favorite games was “Hungry Hungry Hippos.”

Ever played it? The goal was to have your hippo, one of four, devour as many of the marbles, positioned in the center of the game, as possible. By the press of the handy dandy levers, each player could control his/her own hippo head and chomp away as the feeding frenzy started.

Fun and games, gluttony and appetite…
Playing that kid’s game started me thinking more and more about these hot button words. They drive disorders and addictions. I know that as someone who’s in recovery from eating disorders of all types, they certainly were giant hippo heads chomping at my life.

Gluttony’s definition lists itself as an “excess in eating or drinking, greedy or excessive indulgence.”

And let’s not forget about the fun word, “appetite,” describing itself as “an instinctive physical desire, especially one for food or drink, a strong wish or urge.”

So, with that, we’re off and running. Chomp away!

Yet we rarely recognize exactly what we’re doing until it’s too late.

“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice: but what I hate, that I do.” The Apostle Paul in Romans 7:15

This would probably be a great time to mention I broke OFF one of my hippos’ heads while playing the game as a kid.

Ideally, the game wasn’t supposed to go like this. We children were supposed to play nicely, reasonably chomping for marbles. But inevitably, I got impatient and carried away. It was world domination time. And so, my chomping became faster and harder, snapping for every white marble, bashing heads with another hippo. The loud clatter made my mother come out of the kitchen, just to make sure we weren’t destroying the furniture.

So, the fury intensified until one head bash or marble chomp too many launched my hippo head through the living room. I was now headless and powerless, all because of my marble-hungry attitude.

But there’s nothing new under the sun, according to Ecclesiastes. Once upon a time, just like the kid’s game, there were some clear instructions provided on how to play:

“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying,’ Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’” Genesis 2:16-17

But then temptation came in. It may or may not have even been triggered by trauma. Nevertheless, it was influenced by dissatisfaction, greed and a large dose of cluelessness…

“Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, ‘Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’ And the woman said unto the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.’ And the serpent said unto the woman, ‘Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.’” Genesis 3:1-5

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” Genesis 3:6
Eating the apple or obsessively playing a game? Same thing driving it- the “gimme more” demand.

So, now we have blurry guidelines, impulsive decision making and confusion…

“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice: but what I hate, that I do.” The Apostle Paul in Romans 7:15

Wonderful. We go after our cravings, compulsions and addictions and we lose our way.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way…” Isaiah 53:6

We just keep chasing our appetites, no matter that doing so brings ruin…

“Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” James 1:15

And lookie here, we get still more confused…

“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice: but what I hate, that I do.” Romans 7:15

Just like Adam and Eve, we also eventually decide to blame God or someone/something else…

“And the man said, ‘The woman whom thou gavest [to be] with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.’
And the LORD God said unto the woman, ‘What [is] this [that] thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.’” Genesis 3:12-13

Now we get it ALL wrong! If there’s any confusion going on, it is not coming from God.

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:33

We’re the ones who bring the disorder; we choose to recklessly play “Hungry Hungry Hippos” until our heads come off and our life game breaks.

We don’t fully get we are in a battle, especially if our chosen war toy is something notoriously irresistible, like drugs, alcohol or food. If something remotely looks like a fun or a soothing option, we tend to stick with it.
But, make no mistake about it, according to Romans 7, we are at war.

“But I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:23-25

However, the answer is found within that war, even in spite OF the war: God.


He’s not intimidated or blindsided by our struggles. He knows what’s going on.

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

“For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” Psalms 103:14

And, just like how He responded to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:14-19; Genesis 3:23-24), He still chooses NOT to pulverize us.

Does that stop us from encountering some consequences? No. Does that mean we’re hopeless? No. It means we need to turn our hunger, even our hungry hungry hippo hunger, in a different direction: to HIM.
“For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” Psalms 107:9

There’s a temptation to do a serious eye roll here; it seems too Pollyanna to be true. I know. But let’s stick with the scripture for a second, even in the middle of our battle weary, out of control selves.

And one more thing about battle…the battle is God’s…
Proverbs 21:31 is an often quoted scripture, especially when it comes to trials: “the battle is the Lord’s.”

However, when I did some study on the scripture, what I came across was not the word “battle,” but “victory or “safety” instead. Check out some translations.

New International Version:
“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.”

New American Standard Bible:
“The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But victory belongs to the LORD.”

American King James Version:
“The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD.”

Douay-Rheims Bible:
“The horse is prepared for the day of battle: but the Lord giveth safety.”

In all of our fury, desperation, appetites and drives, we still, however, often skip over God. And we could be chomping at the bit at Him!

“…‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ ” Matthew 22:37

Furthermore, there’s this little ditty from God to us…

“‘Since you were precious in my sight… I have loved you…’” Isaiah 43:4

So, the next time we’re hungry, in battle, struggling or resembling a chomping hippo in any way, it might do us some good to remember the winning of the battle has less to do with our performance and more to do with our willingness to let God be God.

“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Romans 8:37

Recovery speak often calls it a moment of “surrender” or “clarity.”

What if we simply called it being hungry for God?

“For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” Psalms 107:9

No hippo heads required.