According to some, I could be making better use of my time. There are other things I could be doing right now. I have two tests next week, a revision of a paper and a short story due, along with other reading assignments in several classes. I have every reason to be productive. I also have every reason to take advantage of the room in my schedule–having only a nine o clock class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays leaves the rest of the day to spend as I please, and I could easily start celebrating the weekend early. But I want to do neither of those, just yet. I am compelled to consider, instead, something that has crossed my mind several times before but which I don’t think I’ve ever explored in writing.
Depending on what time of year you read my blog, you might find out that I really like bread. Usually it’s most often during November, December, or March–seasons of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Lent, respectively. I love bread–the taste, the texture, the smell. I love its symbolism, often noted in many cultures as a staple, a representation for food and livelihood that even extends into community and religion. In chapel today, the Scripture reading came from Matthew 14, verses 13 through 18–the feeding of the 5,000. A crowd of men, women, and children numbering the size of an entire city, with only a few fish and loaves between them. And what Jesus said to His disciples then, He asks of us even now–“Bring me what you have.”
That part is hard enough–surrender, giving up what little you have because you’re quite sure it will not be enough but stubbornly trying to make it work on your own. But then there’s the issue of what will happen to your bread once you open your hands and let it be taken from you. What will happen to your best laid plans, your lifelong dreams, your one true loves? What will become of your bread? We don’t really know–we aren’t privy to exact details of the way God works or predicting the futures left to us. Do I hold on to what I have, though I know the effort is futile? Or do I surrender it to a God Holy and Fierce, and trust the Unseen? It’s a scary thought. Sometimes you just want to take your chances with going your own way. Other times, even when the desire to trust is there, the act of doing so is near impossible. Because the question remains: what will God do with my bread?
I don’t know the exact answer, but I have seen a bit of a pattern throughout Scripture when it comes to Jesus and bread. When feeding the 5,000, he took the bread that was brought to Him. He didn’t force the boy to come up and give all he had, but He did ask. And when the boy trusted and obeyed, He first blessed the bread. And then He broke it. And then He multiplied it so that each had their fill, and there was still plenty left over. Again, at the Passover feast, The Last Supper with His disciples, Jesus took the bread. He blessed it. He broke it. And He gave to those He called friends, even to the one who would betray him, and each had enough. Finally, Jesus Himself said that He was the Bread of Life, the Blessed Son of God. And He was broken–beaten, bruised, betrayed, crucified. And He overcame Death–asserting Himself as the Almighty Love, in Whom there is room for each of us and an infinite besides.
I often am hesitant to give God my bread. My daily plans have been tailored to my own specifications, to keep myself comfortable and calm. My dreams of a career in counseling and impacting an entire community are ambitions that I have held for most of my life. My love, my passion, for writing and for telling stories, is a right that I selfishly hold dear. I don’t want to give these things up. I want them to be approved, but I don’t want to see them fracture, splinter, shatter to pieces. I want to be blessed, but I don’t want to be broken. Yet with the crowd, with His disciples, with all of Humanity–He did not break the bread out of spite or disgust. He did not take the very thing He’d asked for only to destroy it. Instead, it was for the sake of love. Though it pained Him to see so many hungry and poor, to eat with the one who would betray, to give up His Body unto death–each of these He endured for that greater reward of giving Himself to those whom He loved and called His own.
The title of the book I published over the summer is Telling Stories: Beautifully Broken, Some time afterwards, I pleaded the following: There are many times when I cannot help but be moved, weighted, by the desire, the need, to love others well. So please tell me, how can I love you better? How can I be there to encourage, cry on, laugh with, scream at, whisper to, sit by you? Our journeys have crossed–how can I walk a little farther with you? I’m begging you, because I’ve been far too blessed to keep this to myself. I have long considered the concepts of beauty and brokenness, and for many years I have struggled to make sense of it. But perhaps I don’t need to. I have been blessed, and I have been broken, and I have been moved to be multiplied.
By all means, it is good to think on what is Beautiful and to have compassion where there is Brokenness. But maybe when we pray for our rations, we might reconsider. Perhaps in being given our daily bread, we’re handed the plans and dreams and loves of others. We’re given access to bits of their story that will both break and bless us. And perhaps the same is taken from us–that in surrendering our bread to God, He uses it to feed the lives and souls of others. In our opportunities to be God with skin on, to be His hands and feet and voice in this world, perhaps we are also His bread. May we be blessed, may we be broken, and may we be multiplied that all may have a taste of the Goodness, the Truth, the Beauty, of His Love.