Broken Bread

 

38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”

When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”

39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

Mark 6: 38-44

Before the recent snowfall, 6 pm looked as black as midnight. Now, as the day slips quietly to dark gray, the night sky is not as dark with white snow covering the ground. The Christmas lights decorating houses and bushes in the neighborhood warmly glow under a lacy white web of snow.

Several thoughts swim through my mind. I appreciate the Advent season; for the past several years now, I pause and think more intentionally about its meaning. I did not know the word “Advent” when I was younger. We never used the word “Advent”, though I attended church. (Could it be that I missed it entirely?) No, only as an adult has that particular word come into my life.

What I remember is every Christmas Eve, in the church I grew up, they passed out mini candles which were stuck through a circular piece of paper to collect the dripping wax. We each had our own candle, and we stood in the dark as a group, with candles lit.

Have you ever been in a completely dark room with a large number of softly candle-lit faces? Some sort of magic permeates in that moment.

The fires burn bigger now; savage wildfires after years of living. I can’t find that quiet candlelit serenity as easily and it is not as frequent.

I was thinking about the breaking of bread, too, and Jesus’ miracle of feeding the five thousand. It doesn’t fit the Advent season, I know. I read it a couple of weeks ago and it is still on my mind.

It’s the breaking and the giving  and the miracle – and all of that has me thinking, puzzled, grieved, and grateful all at once.

Sometimes we just pick out the tiniest morsels on large platters handed to us. Sometimes we barely dip in the bowl. Sometimes we crawl around on the floor, looking for crumbs. Sometimes we beg for leftovers.

When he looked to heaven, gave thanks, broke, and then gave, with hands open, when he poured out himself, and stands ready to serve a feast, why do we scratch for paltry remnants when he offers more than enough?

Maybe some of us can identify with the above, if we’ve accepted the lesser (the crumbs) for the greater (the abundance) at some point in our lives.

For that abundance, for that utter openness, I am grateful. Words like grateful are not even adequate.

But sometimes I can’t help but ask God the question. I don’t want to ask, but here it is. How much more do I need to be broken? When do you say it’s enough? It seems selfish to even ask, to say it out loud. Where is the miracle… not just any miracle, but my miracle of bread, after all the breaking? Despite how much you broke for me, and for the people of this world, despite all the goodness I’ve seen, despite all the things you’ve shown me… why must I still ask – how much more? (How’s that for brutal honesty?)

Well, maybe you’ve been in this territory, too, like me, and with questions and disappointments. Maybe you feel like me, you’ve seen some beautiful scenes, snapshots flashing in front of your eyes of what could be –  some dreams you dared not dreamed or even sure existed suddenly known to you – and could you ever dare they’d become a reality? Do you ever hold onto that tiny flame of hope? How often have I asked myself that question and either tried to stop myself, or either dared to believe it possible? Countless.

What beauty
And joy
To be invited

Beside the fire
Warming the hands
And heart and mind

Beautiful
To imagine
Some things –
Too good to be true.

Wrecking
Watching from outside
Wishing to be inside

Watch candles burn
Use up all the oxygen
In the room

 

It’s wrenching to pull it all out. Yank through the pain and spill it all out in ink. But in that yanking, I find some answers. I know what is and what is not acceptable, to God, and to me. I don’t have to live in the unacceptable, in “less than” land. I’ve seen the feast. I’ve seen what things are possible, beautiful things, in the landscape. Yes, I believe it. There is a pain and a joy in knowing it, seeing it.

Right now, as I write this, pleas are coming through to help the city of Aleppo, while people suffer, starve, and pray not to die, and the city in shambles. And here I am, with enough food, with shelter, with a fleece blanket to keep warm and survive the winter cold, and not worrying about bombs or machine guns. I can sleep without the clap of gunfire ringing in my ears.

I know enough to say, and I’ve wrestled through this long enough to recognize some reflections of truth on this journey, what is selfish, what isn’t, I know who I am, what I am, whose I am; who God says I am. I don’t have all the answers, but what scares me is not jumping off a circular ride and being stuck with no way of getting off, and I am also aware that jumping off has its own kind of uncertainties, too.

Amidst the questions, waiting, and wondering, I am not devoid of joy and hope, and if you know me, you would know that. I know where true and ultimate hope is. I am not moping or depressed. I am puzzled and grieved… but strangely hopeful, though I am not sure right now of what the answers are or how some stories will end. I am hopeful in something, hopeful in Someone. I see the lights glowing under the snow. A tiny candle still burns in my hands. Hope was born, and I celebrate that.

I guess we all face different kinds of fire, and we all roam in different deserts, wander different wastelands.

But the sun rises even in those places.

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