The Blessing of Daily Bread

A little more faith talk for you.

 

Growing up Baptist, the Lord’s Prayer was familiar to me, but not a part of my daily life. Now, for the past few years, my husband and I have begun praying the words of that prayer every night with our children at bedtime. It is, after all, the way Jesus taught his disciples to pray. So, even if we know that there is nothing magical in the words themselves, internalizing the content of the prayer is important to understanding the proper way to frame our own prayers.

How many times have you prayed (or heard) the Lord’s Prayer without actually considering the implications of asking God for “our daily bread?”

The idea of daily bread was significant for those who heard Jesus’ words on the day he delivered the Sermon on the Mount (which includes the Lord’s Prayer). For generations, the Israelites had passed down the stories of how God provided for them in the wilderness with “bread from heaven,” the manna that lasted just long enough to be consumed and wasted away if hoarded for the next day. (For a good, quick discussion of the Biblical concept of “daily bread,” you can read this post by R.C. Sproul.)

When we take Jesus’ example seriously and ask for daily bread, we are truly going out on a limb. The implication of that prayer is that we will trust God to provide, daily, what we need. Nothing more. Nothing less.

And, sometimes, that’s exactly what he gives.

Daily bread.

Nothing more.
Nothing less.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been well-acquainted with “bread from heaven” during certain seasons of my life. And even if the depth of “need” that I’ve experienced in my life is minor in comparison to the depth of need experienced by others next door, down the street, or around the world, that desperate feeling of neediness is the same. And our response–our posture toward God–really should be the same. “Give us this day our daily bread…” Whether that translates as a new job, next month’s rent, or (literally) food for tomorrow, these are the moments when faith is tried. And when we have to ask whether we really believe God is waiting at the other end of that prayer, poised to rain down bread from heaven.

Desperation.
Have you ever felt it?

Have you ever been in a place where you knew that a miracle–even a small one–was what stood between you and your next meal, next car payment, next pay check, or next doctor’s bill?

And have you ever considered that these seasons of living on daily bread are actually a blessing?

 

Living on daily bread gives us perspective on the difference between want and need.

Have you ever noticed that the less you consume something, the easier it is live without it? Spending money is a habitual behavior. For some of us, it’s an addiction. But when we simply cannot have something we want–a nicer car or an updated kitchen, for example–we realize (eventually) that we are fine without it. With some heart-work, our desires start to diminish and we gain a new perspective on what we truly need. (Spoiler: it ain’t much.) And when we know how little we truly need, God surprises us with the enjoyment of its simplicity.

Living on daily bread re-orders our priorities and proves what we value most.

When we’ve learned to live without many of the things we desire, the way we spend the money we do have says a lot of about what we value. Have you noticed that (with exceptions, obviously) the demographic most likely to invest their livelihood in raising a large family is the demographic with the least amount to invest? Have you ever asked why people would rather adopt another child or pay for someone to attend college or loan a stranger money than take another European vacation? Priorities. Show me how you spend your money and I’ll tell you what you value most.

Living on daily bread teaches us when “enough is enough.”

Once we are able to re-order our priorities, we get a better picture of what is enough for us and for our family. And we learn when to quit reaching for more. This is what motivates a man or woman to relinquish their “earning potential” and turn down a promotion or a high-paying job so that they can spend more time with their kids or serving their community. It’s that moment when we stand before the shiny, new things that we could have, and say to ourselves, “No, this other one is enough; I’ll be happy with this.”

Living on daily bread saves us from the delusion that we are self-made men.

Independence and security are counterproductive to a life of faith. I really believe this. The rugged individualism that builds nations and corporations and mega-churches is the same thing that blurs our vision of the difference between God and man. Who really holds the cards here? I don’t care if you are a millionaire or a beggar. Unless you are aware of your own inability to “make things happen,” then your faith is in yourself, not in God. You still believe that if you play your cards (or the stock exchange or the real estate market) right that you’ll be able to store up enough “bread” to last a lifetime. But, we’ve been told: “do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.” Our investments should be in eternal treasures, things that spring from God and not from ourselves.

Living on daily bread cultivates contentment, which produces generosity.

Along with treasure, contentment is something else that comes from God and grows over time. Contentment is satisfaction with what he has provided for me, regardless of what he has provided for someone else. It puts an end to comparison and envy and, funny enough, it actually produces generosity. Once we are free from obsessing over the things we don’t have, we loosen our sense of ownership over what we do have. We share more. We give things away. We invite others to join in and enjoy the blessings we have received. Whether it be an extra hamburger at lunch or a million dollar donation, this is where it becomes obvious the difference between someone who feels entitled to their wealth and someone who feels indebted to God for it.

Living on daily bread keep us looking up to the One who provides.

When we know that everything we have comes as a gift from God, we begin to orient ourselves to him and not to the world. And then the daily bread that keeps us alive and well–our money, our homes, our skills, etc.–moves us beyond survival and into service. This circles back to our priorities, of course, as we begin to re-order our lives toward the Kingdom of God rather than our own kingdoms. And this is where God multiplies our blessing. Not for all of us in all the same ways, of course. But always to the same end.

 

I am still trying to learn to see the blessing in living on daily bread. My heart is still prone to want more and better and “what she has” and I am so, so very anxious about everything these days. But I am learning. And I understand more today than I did yesterday how precious are the gifts that rain down on me every single day. And, every night, as we pray that God would “give us our daily bread,” I mean it more.

In a few weeks, with my son officially beginning his first term of kindergarten here at home, our daily meditation will be the same each morning:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:25-33)

This is what we’ll be working toward memorizing (and learning!) together this year so that it’s written on our hearts and minds.

 

The Hardest Part of Motherhood

Some women hate pregnancy.
Some women dread childbirth.
Some women can’t bear to lose sleep while caring for a restless newborn or doing laundry or changing diapers.

Parenting young children (and old, I can imagine) is hard, on multiple levels, and we could list the reasons.

But, the hardest part of motherhood?
It’s the moment a mother (or mother to-be or mother in-waiting) realizes the fragility of a child’s life and their own powerlessness to protect it.

Today marks 26 weeks into my third pregnancy.

Unlike many of my peers, getting pregnant has been easy for me and my pregnancies have been relatively drama-free. And childbirth, though excruciating, has left me unscathed and willing to go another round. I was not naive about the difficulties of pregnancy and childbirth. And, as I entered those awkward first few months of motherhood, I was not surprised by the difficulties I encountered. And now these wild and crazy first few years? I’ve never been surprised by how difficult this work truly is.

But, six weeks ago, I was surprised by a phone call from my OBGYN.

The short version of my story is that our baby–our little girl–has a Single Umbilical Artery (SUA). The doctor called me that day to tell me that a Perinatologist had spotted this abnormality on the photos of our otherwise-normal ultrasound and wanted to follow-up with another, more detailed ultrasound to rule out other possible abnormalities. She assured me that, given the otherwise normal ultrasound images, the SUA was probably an isolated abnormality. But, I should be aware that SUA is often present with other congenital defects and further testing would need to be done.

Since it was a Friday afternoon, I had all weekend to play internet detective and find out what terrible things could be happening to my baby.

What I found out: First of all, SUA is fairly common (somewhere between 1 in 100 and 1 in 500 live births). And, like my doctor said, the most common, majority-case scenario was that the SUA was isolated and there would be no other abnormalities. But, if our situation was like the minority of SUA cases, we could be dealing with much more difficult implications. The possibilities range from slight and manageable challenges (things like low birth weight, premature birth, or Trisomy 21–aka Down Syndrome) to much more severe abnormalities (things like renal and cardiac anomalies, Intrauterine Growth Restriction, and Trisomy 18–aka Edwards Syndrome). The more severe abnormalities could lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, and early infant death.

As you can imagine, it was a rough weekend.

The good news for us is that when we saw the Perinatologist early that next week, the only other issue he detected in our Level II ultrasound is a small placenta tear. There don’t seem to be any other congenital defects. I have now been elevated to “high risk” but, as long as the placenta tear does not grow or develop into a clot, we should not expect any serious complications with the rest of the pregnancy or our daughter’s health.

How’s that for good news?

But I’m not writing this to tell you the good news.

As much as I’m thankful a million times over that our baby appears healthy, our SUA scare has reminded me of all the mothers who don’t hear good news.

It made me feel real, physical, tangible pain for all the women I know who simply cannot get pregnant at all,
and those who can’t imagine paying for an adoption or aren’t approved for an adoption or whose almost-adopted babies are taken away,
and those who miscarry once or twice or five times,
and those whose babies are born already dead,
and those whose babies are born with broken bodies that never heal,
and those whose healthy children grow sick and die,
or whose children get hurt and die,
or whose children are victimized or brutalized or hurt themselves,
and the list goes on and on and on.

And it made me feel scared and helpless and powerless.

I always knew–cognitively, like the way I know “how gravity works”–that something like this could happen to me or to my children. But, now I was faced with the reality of it.

Maybe it’s my turn.
Maybe this time it’s my baby.

I don’t want to be overly dramatic about this because, as I’ve said, my story ends with good news and the fear of losing a child is nothing compared to the reality of losing a child. But I also don’t want to minimize the lesson learned here, the important and sobering lesson that every mother will learn eventually:
The hardest part of motherhood is the fragility of a child’s life and the knowledge that we are powerlessness to protect it.

The big question, I guess, is how we deal with this knowledge.
How do we continue having more children and loving them fully and deeply when we know that, at any moment, we could lose them? How can we have the faith to even let them out the front door or in a car or down the slide at the park without fearing for their lives?

In addition to not over-dramatizing this story, I also don’t want to over-theologize it because I know that many of the people who read my blog are not Christians and don’t have the same context for understanding the way the Maker of the Universe orchestrates the lives of small children. But, I don’t know how I could process these thoughts without my faith. I’m sure there are other coping mechanisms that I could enlist to help, but I’m not sure any other system of belief would offer the same consolation.

A few years ago, a friend told me she had just lost her third pregnancy–two to miscarriage and one to stillbirth. The news was difficult to process, but it was even more difficult to find a proper response. I’m not sure I ever found one.

The picture that came to mind, when I considered her situation, was the concept of painful expectation that Paul talks about in the book of Romans.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Ch.8, v. 18-23)

I don’t want to stretch this meaning too far, but I think its application might be appropriate.

Basically, I believe this:

We are broken people. We live in a broken world with broken bodies. We give birth, in pain, to broken children. This brokenness should not surprise us. But we are suffering through this painful, corrupted world, in expectation of complete and total redemption–of not just our souls but also our bodies. And, to this hope and for this hope, we persevere. We do not believe that the loss of a child is good or welcome or any less tragic. But, if we believe this story, we believe that every breath breathed by that child–or heartbeat, or year lived–is a miracle and a gift because it gives us a glimpse of redemption. This might not make loss any easier, but it does make the hope of redemption all the more poignant.

 

Mothering is hard.
Physically, emotionally, and mentally, it requires constant labor and commitment.

But the joys of mothering can not be understated.

And, though the fear of losing a child can steal the joy of mothering, it doesn’t need to. Instead, it could free us to embrace each moment with our children–unborn, newborn, long-ago born–as the miracle it truly is.

I wonder if it’s even possible to embrace the sacredness of the life of a child without first understanding how miraculous their very existence is in the first place.

On that note, what should we name her?

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