You would think that praying the words "Give us this day our daily bread" before ever dinner I have ever remembered would mean than I understood what I was saying.
But I dont think I did. Not until this past year.
Daily Bread. What a concept. So many times I feel like we try to run on up ahead God.... we want more. Either that or we have too little faith to think that he is going to provide for us when we need it most. But our God is perfect, He provides just what is needed, when we need it.
Last Sunday I returned to LaGrave for the first time since Serve ended in June. To be honest, I had been in some ways putting it off... though in other ways I couldn't wait to be there again. I love the people there so much, and I've missed being involved there. However, I didn't think I was ready to look in the face of my life there and know that everything is different.
But, I had thought, what could one little church service do? I would go in, listen to a sermon, and promptly leave. I would perhaps see a handful of the regulars who sat in the balcony with me, and wave to a few others as I made a hasty exit. No problem.
But God had different plans.
Upon entering the church, my friend Lauren mentioned that she wanted something to drink. I agreed, so we went off to the multipurpose room to grab some 'orange poison' (a I've come to know the juice we serve) while our other friends saved us seats up in the balcony. However, the multipurpose room was unusually abuzz, and I quickly realized that it must be Ministry Celebration Sunday --the one Sunday all year where the different ministries of the church had tables set up to make their programs known to the rest of the church body. As such, there were tables for every ministry I had been apart of, manned by the people whom I love and miss the most. While trying to act normal, a little girl named Sophie whom I had taught in my 2nd grade Children's Worship class ran up to me and threw her arms around me--thanking me for being here on 'this day'. To be honest, I had no idea what she meant, but I hugged her back and managed to gulp down my juice before going to join the rest of our friends in the balcony.
However, once joining our friends in the balcony, I knew the service was not going to be easy to endure. The new youth intern was being commissioned, and a word of what was meant to be encouragement from my friends sent me to tears. Next the commissioning of all the youth leaders was given, and my eyes welled again as I was unable to join them in standing and accepting the commissioning. Finally, my entire 2nd grade class from the year before was brought to the front and given their Bibles, and it hit me what little Sophie had been so excited about--she was glad I was there to see them become part of the 'big' church. At this point, I was about to break.... but still held it in. God had a plan in all of it, didn't he?
What came next was both expected, but completely unexpected at the same time. During the offering, the 'Welcome Registry' was passed. This is normal occurance at LaGrave, and one I should have seen coming. I had signed this said registry dozens of times, and had given no thought to it. But, that day, it was a different story. As I looked at the options, I realized I was not a full 'Member' of LaGrave, and thus could not check that box. Nor was I a 'Student' any longer, so that option was out of the running. 'Visitor' did not seem appropriate, and the thought of resigning myself to the rank of 'Frequent Attender' seemed almost like a slap in the face.
Who was I and what was I doing here?!
Checking none of the boxes, I handed off the register and headed down to the bathroom, bawling. Now, to be quite honest, I have found myself bawling in this said bathroom on a number of occasions...more than a few even during church services. Times when I felt unfit to be in ministry at the church, times when I felt God nudging me to do something I didn't want to, times when I was sad or angry or sick or in need or felt like I should have all the answers or any of the above. But on that day I just felt.... empty. I was lonely, I was feeling ridiculous for my emotional outburst over the lack of understand regarding God's plan in my life, and I certainly did not want to be crying. And so I dried my eyes and pulled myself together to make it through the rest of church.
And that's when God did it. Again.
That day, God's sermon was for me and me alone. The very first words Reverend Mast spoke were "Today we're talking about what's next." And I thought "well, that would be good to know right about now" .... and Reverend Mast went on to remind me of a God who always has the last laugh, because He is a faithful, covenant God who will keep his promises. And doesn't our God promise us far more than we let ourselves partake in?
Here's the thing about daily bread: I think God has it in for us.
I think He WANTS us to to feel overwhelmed and ready to break. I've told people before that I never want a life that I could handle... because then I would just handle it and forget God. So he pushes us. He confronts us with everything that is hard, all at once. He allows us to look back (if we really insist on it) and say, "If only...", so that we can look at Him and realize that we don't need or want 'ifs' in our lives. We are a a fallen, broken people who needs our God. I learned that beyond all measure this past year. But I also learned that our God is one who wants to save his fallen and broken people.
And so He gives himself to us, one day at a time. Like manna from heaven that spoils when we impose our own assumptions on it and collect too much, or leaves us hungry if we do not trust it... He gives us just enough of himself to get us through whatever trial we are facing.
There is an old Point of Grace song that puts it in different terms:
"We run on up ahead, we lag behind YOU. It's hard to wait when heaven's on our minds. Teach our restless feet to walk beside you, because in our hearts we're already gone. Won't YOU walk with us? Steady on."
Steady on everyone.... God will provide the bread.