A house burned down in my neighborhood during the freeze that Houston endured recently. They don’t know the details of what caused the fire but there were three children, ages, 5, 7 and 11 and their grandmother whose lives were lost in the fire. This house is right around the corner from me. I see it every single day as I drive in and out of my neighborhood and as I walk my own kids to the park, ages 3, 6, and 8. The house is destroyed, a pile of rubble. When you stand in front of it, the smell of ashes is overwhelming.
Until recently, I avoided going by this house. Even though I can see it from the corner, I refused to walk by it. The grief was too overwhelming. The reality of losing three children was too close to home for me in every way.
Until a couple of days ago when I went on a walk and I finally decided to stop in front of the house. It took me a few minutes but finally I was able to cry. And then the crying became sobbing and the sobbing became uncontrollable. And what came out of my mouth, as a prayer, surprised me. I said to God, “How will you provide in these ashes? For this brokenness?”
Have you ever asked that of God? Have you come right up to the worst case scenario, the greatest tragedy, the worst suffering and wondered about God’s provision? Or maybe you have looked at the ashes of your own life or the ashes of a situation and you doubt that God will provide at all.
I think all of us, at some point and in some way, have asked, “God how will you provide in this?
When your marriage is falling apart.
When you are taking treatments for a terminal illness.
When you are grieving a loss.
When you have received the really bad news.
I have reflected on the image of bread during this Lenten season. I have said that bread, in scripture, is a common and daily element that reminds Gods people of who God is. Isn’t this how God works? God is known for using common elements and common things to bring us into divine realities. For example, when the people of God were led out of slavery into the desert in Exodus 16, the daily bread (called manna) was to remind them that God was the one who brought them out of Egypt (Exodus 16:6, 16:12).
God wants the complaining people to know that God is the one who gives them daily bread and this God is the same God who conquered Pharoah, who sent the plagues, who parted the Seas and who gave them freedom. The bread is to be a physical sign of God’s faithfulness so that when they begin to doubt, they can pick up the bread with their hands and they can feel it flake apart. They can see the color. They can taste the honey flavor. They can let the smell fill their nasal cavities and trigger the hunger. And in all of these physical sensations, they are invited to remember a divine reality of who God is.
This is why bread is so important. Bread points us to all of the daily miracles of Gods provision and bread reminds us of who God is.
This is why the words of Jesus in John’s gospel are so very interesting.
I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that whoever eats from it will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6:48-51
Here we see that God not only gives bread to Gods people. God becomes bread for Gods people. And this bread is still Gods daily provision for Gods people, reminding Gods people of who God is.
The key difference is that this bread, the Body of Jesus, is broken bread. And the Body of Jesus doesn’t just end up broken at the cross. The body of Jesus comes into the world broken. Jesus came to take on what we bear, to feel what we feel and to suffer as we suffer. The body of Jesus is broken just as we are broken.
This is why bread is so important. Bread invites us to return to the brokenness or the ashes of our lives and find the broken body of Jesus.
The image of Jesus as broken bread reminds us that there is no Brokenness where God is not. There is no brokenness that God has not experienced. The worst of betrayal? Yes. The loss of a child? Yes. The gut wrenching pain of someone you love not responding to you? Yes. There is no brokenness you can experience that God won’t provide for because the daily provision is now the miracle of God’s own self given in Jesus. He is the broken bread. He is the provision. The provision is the Presence.
So what provision do you need from God in this Lenten season?
A Blessing for your ashes:
May you find Jesus in the ashes of your own story.
May you bring your needs to God and find God’s daily provision.