“Does God make the bread you get from the store?” My daughter’s question baffled me until I remembered how several evenings earlier our family had read the Lord’s Prayer together. She hadn’t said anything at the time, but she must have taken the words “Give us this day our daily bread” literally.
And why shouldn’t we pray for literal bread? Trading money for a sliced, wrapped, and labeled product doesn’t take me into the mystery of the Maker. That amazement was reserved for the first time I teetered on a chair at my mother’s elbow, pummeling and shaping loaves, marveling at the sharp scent, the cycle of action and rest, and the sunny window that seemed to magically double the quantity of dough. Try explaining the puzzle of yeast to a six-year-old – for example, the one who now teeters at my elbow. “Well,” she says after I’ve tried several times, “at least God knows how it works.” Someday, she and I will go look up the science. But probably not before the next row of loaves is cooling on the counter. For now, something about their realness points us back to God, by way of the wheat field.
There are other harvests. In the Genesis creation story, all the creatures that moved on the ground were “very good” in God’s sight. And that goodness is not only to delight the eye of the beholder, as our family learned during one of those interminable northeastern winters that really needs a mother to remind it that it’s just one of four seasons. Food prices were up, and we had five mouths to feed. When my husband took his bow out into the gray cold and returned with a buck that packed sixty-four pounds of meat, the children discovered a new respect for hard-won food claimed from the forest, not the store.
When it was time to make venison sausage, they were underfoot throughout, with noses almost contributively close to the meat grinder. They cackled at the sausage casings twitching about in the rinsing water. They stirred spices, sending up plumes of sage and pepper.
I’m glad they know that the roast on the table is venison back strap. They should know how to prepare meat, how to spice and serve and share it with others. But after dinner, with the dark gathered close around the house and the wind leaning on the windows, our daughter looked out to the treeline and remembered an earlier season, when we watched a doe and her fawns drifting along the edge of a summer dusk with fireflies weaving all around them, as misty as the fawns’ flecks in the last of the light. The same God who provided us with food and the ability to harvest it gave us also these moments of breath-catching beauty – bread for the soul.