On July 19, 2017, I had a heart attack. One year, three procedures, and massive diet and exercise changes later, the beatings continue, so to speak. The Lord counts my days and knows my steps.
An unexpected side effect of changing my diet is a new-found enjoyment of baking bread. I went overboard a bit on the healthy diet thing, and am somewhat obsessive about knowing every ingredient that I eat. Since the collective nutrition wisdom strongly suggests healthy grains as a base-level ingredient, why not learn to make artisan bread that fulfills the healthy requirement and tastes good? This launched me into what has so far been a three-month intensive course in flour, water, salt, and yeast. Four ingredients that alone are just there; ingredients we all have in our kitchens. But together, with time and temperature added to the mix, those four ingredients have brought me joy and delight and nutrition.
I love the earthy smell of the levain culture every morning when I feed it, the smooth texture of the soft dough when I fold it before bulk fermentation, the bubbly and gassy dough rising in the bucket with air pockets and structure from the protein strands, the satisfaction of dividing the dough and forming it into tight balls before placing them in the proofing baskets, the wafting distinctive nutty, buttery, smells that fill the entire house when the bread bakes in the oven, and finally, the totally unexpected sound of the bread crackling when it cools on the countertop.
Bread, in many ways, means life to me. Bread is a healthy, delicious sustenance for my body, absent of dangerous saturated fats that might clog my arteries, and full of whole grain goodness. Spending ten days starting my own levain culture from nothing but whole wheat flour and water has taken my mind back to what may have been a simpler time. I can imagine people 100 years ago, a 1,000 years ago, 2,000 years ago, doing something very similar to me. Bread, in many ways, is life.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”
Pause and try to imagine what that means. I wish you could feel the depth of those six words and how much deeper and more multi-faceted they are to me now. Life is fleeting. One night you might get home from seeing Spiderman with the family and be hit in the chest with arm-numbing pain, wondering if, suddenly, unexpectedly, you are done with this world. Then, nine months later, your hands are pinching and folding warm dough that smells earthy, like a wheat field in late August, knowing that four simple ingredients—flour, water, salt, and yeast—will not only delight your palate but sustain your life.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
Going to the grocery store and buying a loaf of country white does not help me understand the metaphor like mixing white wheat, whole wheat, and stone ground rye flour does. Jesus delights me and sustains me. We are to have simple faith, like a child, and he will meet our hunger and take it away, replacing it with life—not just any life, but eternal life. Jesus is earthy and real and holy and did not consider his God-ness a thing to be held on to and grasped, but something that he willingly gave up so that he could walk this earth with dust covered feet and no place to lay his head, crying out to farmers and tax collectors and prostitutes and fishermen, “I am the bread of life.”
I pray the next time you grab a loaf of bread from the pantry, open the bag and smell the familiar aroma that you will pause and turn, in your heart and mind, again to the One who gives life.
Both the staff and faculty at Bethlehem College & Seminary love that our mission is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ by equipping men and women to treasure Christ above all things, to grow in wisdom and knowledge over a lifetime, and to glorify God in every sphere of life. Thank you for praying and partnering with us in this glorious calling.
Vice President of Administration