This Day Our Daily Bread.
Looking back at the last seven days since I started essentially my quarantine, my mind comes up with several questions. Is my setup sustainable? Can I handle remote work effectively? Has it really only been seven days?! For many, this has been quite the whirlwind. For me, I received my noticed for mandatory telework when I drove into the office and half the building was dark. Guess I should have checked my email that morning. It was an eerie feeling, walking through darkened hallways that usually were full of light and people talking esoteric subjects. Looking back, that was the first instance of that feeling of isolation, of being cut off from those around us.
So Wednesday, my first day working from home, I thought I'd make the most of the situation and make a loaf of bread. Baking is a hobby of mine, and I enjoy the results, but it does take time. Time to prepare the dough, time to let the dough prove, time to shape the dough and let it prove again, time to bake the bread, and time to let it cool for best results. Usually its hard to fit that in after work, but if I'm working from home, all I need is 5-10 minutes every hour or so and I'm set. Thus, several hours later I find myself hungrily slicing a hunk off the end of a simple white loaf and in that instant I was struck by the image, so I took a picture.
That phrase from the Lord's Prayer came to me, "give us this day our daily bread." The more I thought about it, the more complicated the ideas became. On one level, God's providence of a good job where I can work from home gave me the opportunity to make some bread to eat. On a deeper level, it is providential that in a time of pandemic, I am not worried about what I will eat. That thought brought to my mind those around the world and those close to home who do not have that security, who face unemployment and economic uncertainty compounded by the spectre of disease. The juxtaposition of the blessings I enjoy and the looming privations of millions does not readily resolve.
Even now, a week later, I'm still struggling with these concepts. It is through no foresight on my part that I am in my position; I picked a government position for job security, yes, but I was not considering a global pandemic in the equation. Likewise, I try to resist the urge to stockpile provision in the basement, shut the doors, and wait it out. As Emily jokingly told me, there's no point getting so many canned goods that you think "I shall tear down my barns and build bigger barns!" We all know how that story ended. Instead, I've found peace of mind by trying to turn my abilities and inclinations outwards. Sure, we're stuck inside due to disease, but perhaps this is an opportunity to turn a house into a home. We've seen more of our neighbors in a week than we normally do in a month. Maybe this is also an opportunity to turn people who live near us into a true community. How can we reach out to those around us who might need what we can provide? We'll never know their needs until we reach out to know them first. I've offered to do grovery runs for more at-risk neighbors; thus far I've not been needed, but hopefully knowing the option is there can provide them peace of mind.
A poem that has always stuck with me is A Legend of Service, by Henry Van Dyke. I first heard about it in a sermon in grad school, and it has stayed with me ever since. One of the many powerful lines that I think applies here is about a humble saint of the city, "who faced his work like play, and joyed to find it greater every day." Perhaps for those of us in a time of plenty what we truly need is the opportunity to serve the Kingdom and those around us. Man truly does not live on bread alone, or otherwise we'd all go mad in our time of isolation. Instead, perhaps the spiritual daily bread we need is to do what we can with what we are given, to be the hands and feet of Christ in a time when many see only desolation. The situation is still rapidly evolving, so we'll need to be flexible and adapt to our ever-changing predicament and find ways to help, but He who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it, and He has better planning abilities than I do.
But for now I have to run, I need to check on my apple soda bread.