Most every Sunday at my church, I sit at the keyboard in the choir loft. When Communion is served, I am privileged to have a direct line of sight to the Table and can easily see the elements as they are consecrated by our pastor.
One particular Sunday, when the Celebrant lifted the homemade loaf and began to break it, the bread stretched, then tore about two-thirds of the way down the loaf. As he pulled further, pieces of the crisp crust dropped onto the altar cloth and onto the floor. Seeing what happened, my first thought was, (and I hate to admit this), "If you had scored the bread, that wouldn't happen."
While the celebrant continued on with the Great Thanksgiving Liturgy, my mind drifted back almost a decade to countless multi-generational Communion services at a large conference I attended annually. Each celebration was a sacred, precious, and profound encounter with God.
In my latter years as a part of that ministry, I was given responsibility for choosing liturgy, making sure there was a person overseeing the preparation of the elements, and crafting a worship experience that culminated in this Sacrament. True to my nature, I created an extremely detailed list of instructions that captured most every nuance of the nuts and bolts behind what took place at the Table. That document contained a section about the care of the bread... King's Hawaiian Round Sweet Bread to be exact. One of the bullet points indicated that the loaf was to be scored approximately 1/4 inch across the bottom so that when the Celebrant lifted and "broke" the bread, it would conveniently tear apart directly in the middle, creating a clean, tidy, crumb-minimizing, controlled break that resulted in two equal halves.
I was suddenly snapped back to the reality of sitting in the choir loft of my little church as everyone stood up at once. Papers rustled as people set their bulletins aside to come forward to receive the elements. I played softly, watching that unevenly broken loaf continue to drop crumbs as each person received a piece of bread uniquely torn for them. I could also see the response of gratitude on each face as they encountered God's sustaining grace. It was messy, and yet, it was beautiful. It was untidy, and it was real. It was an encounter that would require cleanup... and it was holy.
As I reflected on the contrast between years of precisely scored, manufactured bread that assured a tidy, effortless, even "break" and this messy brokenness of ripped homemade bread, it hit me. "Perhaps that's the point."
I sat on that piano bench, breathless from a painful self-revelation. Scoring Communion bread was a symptomatic metaphor of a lifetime pattern of trying to control outcomes... to make things less messy, less uncomfortable, less susceptible to critique, and ultimately less vulnerable to possible rejection. I sacrificed to preserve dignity, to ensure decorum, and to create a figleaf that was ornate enough to distract from my brokenness. It was tidy... but it was exhausting.
Holding back tears, I experienced one of those Richard Rohr - Brennan Manning - Henri Nouen moments, realizing that God is not offended, repulsed, befuddled, irritated, or disappointed by my unresolved mess. Rather, He is present in it. Selah. And beloved, God is not offended, repulsed, befuddled, irritated, or disappointed by your unresolved mess. He is present in it.
Perhaps as you have been reading this, you recognize bread-scoring tendencies in your life. May I reassure you as God is reassuring me? God is able to untangle all the snarls in your soul [Corrie Ten Boom]. This very One who knit us together in our mother's womb [Psalm 139], invites us to rest in the refuge of truth that there is nothing you can do that would make God love you more and there is nothing you can do that would make Him love you less. Hear His heart toward you.
"My Beloved, you have a purpose. You have a destiny that I am eager to see fulfilled. Abide in Me. Rest in Me. Remain in Me. I will supply, strengthen, nourish, and feed you. I will not dole Myself out in increments based on your performance. You will not have more of Me if you "perform" better. No, precious one, you have access to all of Me, right now.
I am not focused on what you think is wrong with you. My focus is on what is missing in your life, and I am relentlessly committed to being the very grace that you need. That grace is My empowering presence that enables you to become everything I see when I look at you. As you are saturated in My grace, your 'doing' will begin to flow out of your 'being' and you will be more swayed by the whispers of My Spirit than by the perceived expectations of those around you.
Oh, child, I never get tired or weary of you. I love loving you. So, 'Come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me. For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear'" [Matthew 11:28-30 TPT]. [Additional thoughts and concepts from Developing Your Destiny and Fullness Now, by Graham Cooke].
Precious one, may you rest in the secure embrace of the One who is relentless in kindness, unceasing in faithfulness, tender in compassion, gentle in guidance, intentional in generosity, extravagant in provision, and lavish in love. Indeed, God is joyfully willing and supremely able to supply you with everything needed for life, bringing the good work that He began in you to completion - mess by mess, layer by layer, memory by memory, and even, perhaps, "I forgive" by "I forgive."
Grace upon grace to you, and mercy on mercy to all of us. Amen.
If you are looking for a starting place to process this particular blog entry, I invite you to take a moment and receive this song sung by Steve Green, as a word of encouragement. Indeed, He Who Began a Good Work in you will be faithful to complete it.
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