Saturday, October 10, 2015

Nourished By Breadcrumbs

"Give us this day, our daily bread."

In the years since graduating college, praying this line from The Lord's Prayer has taken on new meaning for me, in the both the spiritual and physical sense. I've had to pray that line in it's most literal sense, on more than one occasion, because there have been numerous times when my fridge and  bank account were both entirely empty.

Working less than part-time and relying on a bus to get to and from my groceries doesn't always guarantee that food will be readily available. Yet somehow, I have never gone hungry. A dear friend shows up at my front door with home-made meals to freeze and last me months. Another friend packs up the canned goods, pasta and bread mixes that her family no longer needs, and sends them home with me after work. Or, sometimes, Mom shows up and makes me a meatloaf, "just because". In these moments, God has fed my body,  and reminded me of His physical provision, in all times.

Yet, I've also had time to reflect on what this prayer means for my spiritual nourishment, and have found that the most fortifying meals often come from the smallest of breadcrumbs.


I haven't been to church in years. I've certainly church "sampled" since graduating Calvin, but never committed. There are a lot of reasons behind my absence -- the biggest of these propelled by my own fear and anxiety of walking into a service alone, especially if I had to take a Go!Bus to get there. These fears were formed before the advent of Uber.)  Can you imagine that entrance? A small bus, pulling up to the curb of a church, and there I am, cane in hand. There's no room for anonymity, there, and I kind of want that quietness coming into a worship service for the first time. I just want to fade into the background and be fed by The Word --  until I'm more comfortable to immerse myself in a community of  faith.

And I assume that anyone else coming to a church for the first time, regardless of their journey in life, regardless of the burdens they carry, regardless of their ability, might share these same desires.

 I don't want "those" questions -- the ones about my vision loss, about it's connectedness to my faith journey, about how strong I MUST be  -- to be an initial part of a church experience, and I'm here to tell you, in all my "sampling", those questions have been asked in one form or another. And I understand why they are asked in church, just as I understand why I am asked them at a bus stop. I get that people are trying to connect and understand, and I appreciate the thought, but on some level, it's exhausting. Shouldn't the Church be the one place where I am not defined by my bodily limitations, but rather by my identity as a member of the Body of Christ? Is that too much to hope for?

So, I haven't gone to church. And I have felt that absence greatly affect my emotional and spiritual health. I think I have been starving for church community. There's been a hunger to meet God in that place of worship, and I have been neglecting it.

This summer, a friend of mine invited me to Christ Church, the community of faith that he had been attending for the summer. (He had only been living temporarily in GR for an internship.) The service we attended was also on the day that he was moving back home, and I appreciated that this service would be our final "hurrah!" before we parted ways for a few months. Worshipping with loved ones has always been really important  to me.

I really loved the service. The sermon spoke directly to more than one questions of faith that I had been wrestling with, and I so enjoyed singing traditional hymns. While there, my friend and I met a wonderful couple, who, after learning that this was my first time attending, warmly invited me back to future services, even though my friend was moving away. Tiny morsels of assurance. Tiny nuggets of communion.

It was about a month later that I decided to go back to Christ Church. I felt the prompting after listening to one of the podcasts online, and just felt a tugging, "This-Is-Where-You-Should-Be" on my heart. That Sunday morning, I woke up early with the intention of attending the 8:30AM service. I was a nervous wreck as I got ready. I had never, ever, ever gone to a church by myself, and there was an absurd amount of thought about how this would go. ("So, I just, like, walk in and sit down? Like, by myself? But what if I'm late?") As if I was the first person, ever, in the whole history of the world, to attend a Sunday morning service, single-o.

With each moment, I kept looking for God's assurance, kept hoping that He would feed me with bits of this day's bread. And of course, He did. And of course, I faltered in my faith quite a few times that morning. The Uber showed up on time. Yep, God is here.  But oh, no! We're running late, because the Uber got lost! Should I still be doing this? You're only two minutes late, and they're on the second verse of that five-verse hymn. Chill. (Sometimes, I imagine that God says, "Chill" a lot, to me.)

 I made it through the service. And yes, "Made it through" is probably a horrible descripin of anyone's church experience, but I was such a ball of anxiety and nerves that morning, that the making it through was providential, because, in spite of all my stomach-knotting angst, I was abundantly nourished by the service that day. And the biggest bounty came at a moment when my own hunger for recognition howled in my heart, at the end of the service. When everyone was congregating around Sunday school activities, I suddenly felt very alone. This was why I avoided church attendance by myself.

I started this dialogue within, completing doubting that it would make any difference. "Wouldn't that be great if that couple was here, today?" I thought. "I'd really like to see that woman again. I could really use a friendly face. Some sort of sure sign that everything will be OK. But that won't happen, because what are the odds that she's in this service, let alone that she would remember me? I shouldn't hope for -- "

"You came back!" And just like that, she parted the crowds (it all felt very cinematic, actually) and walked towards me. She exclaimed, "Oh, I've been thinking a lot about you, and wondering how you are!" She embraced me as though she had known me her whole life.

In that moment, I was welcomed into a community of believers. Prayers that I didn't even know how to articulate were answered. Faith had been fed. This is where I'm meant to be. May I never starve, again.

{"For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,  and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.'" -- 1 Corinthians 11: 23, 24}


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