On Turning Stones to Bread–A Lenten Meditation

Of the three temptations Jesus faced in the Wilderness, I find that only one holds any sort of appeal for me. All the kingdoms of the world? No thanks. I have trouble enough keeping my apartment in order, much less all the mess that all the kingdoms might make. Throw myself down? Try the provision of God and His angels to keep my feet from falling? As if that doesn’t describe my daily struggle anyway. No, I already hurl myself into far too many scrapes, and then cry out to God to save me from the mess I’ve made. Ask my angels; surely they could tell the countless times they bear me up on their hands.

No, it’s the first temptation that has proven my plague all of my life. Turning stones to bread? Ah, now you’ve got my full attention.

I love food. A friend recently commented on how funny it is that food delights me. And it does–sometimes a little too much, for often a celebration involves a meal, fellowship requires tea or beer, and comfort sometimes comes from the ice cream aisle. At best I hope my delight in food has something to do with God long ago preparing me for His Table, both the one I eat at on Sundays and the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.

Because I’m hungry. Inside of me I find deep desires that all my life I have longed, and tried in vain, to fill. Lewis’s talk of longing resonates deep inside, that search for something never there. Pierce Pettis calls it “the presence of your absence.” I could describe the course of my life as one long string of looking for bread and finding a stone.

And try as I might, my alchemical powers turn up sorely lacking in the wilderness of this world. Try as I might, I just can’t wave my wand and make the stones feed me. You remember that old Brothers Grimm story “Stone Soup:” at the end of the meal, they take the stone from the pot and move on. And of course, the stone did not make the meal, but rather the reluctant generosity of many filled that pot with good things–the stone had nothing to do with the actual meal.

And so with me. How gracious of God to see me searching out stones and reminding me that what I really hunger for is bread, and that only by the devil’s hand can I in myself turn what I seek into what I need. He reminds me as well that His Word is really what I hunger for most. That in some small way like Christ I too have food to eat–doing the will of God as I find it in my daily life.

And doing that will reminds me too that daily bread will be provided. Manna from Heaven–just enough for today (it goes wormy-bad when I get all grabby and try to store some up). I remember that my response to hunger is not to make my feast, but to trust that the one who Himself feeds the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields is deeply concerned with giving me all I really need.

Yet it remains a temptation to me to try to turn stones to bread–to assume that I know what I need, to fear I’ve made the wrong decision. To doubt–to doubt my resolve or, more to the point, to doubt God’s steady hand of provision for my daily needs.

I’m tempted to fill my emptiness with the works of my own hands. But God’s message to me, however, is to wait, to stay hungry. Lewis describes Joy as “the ultimate law of loss.” My best work in this world is to want the next–“want,” in that oldest sense–to lack, to have not and hunger for.

My heart is the stone. God’s will for me is the bread. And to pray the perfect prayer, “Thy will be done,” is to simply say I’m still hungry and I have not what I’m hungry for until He moves His hand, filling my mouth, my life, with good things.

Amen

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