Monday, November 17, 2008
Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
For days now, the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray (as recorded in the King James Version of the Gospel of Matthew, chapter six) has spooled over and over in my mind. My thoughts always hitch at "Give us this day our daily bread."
As I circulated through aisle after aisle at the grocery mega-store this weekend, piling my cart with a stockpile of food for the coming week (that I could make stretch for a month or more if absolute need be), I recalled my daily shopping trips to the corner grocery outside our apartment building in Seoul, South Korea, back when we were missionaries there. The entire store would have fit inside my current bedroom--with several feet to spare. But despite the compact quarters, I could always find the fresh (really fresh) fruits, vegetables, rice, eggs, and basic necessities our family needed to eat that day.
My first episode of re-entry shock after our move back to the States occurred on my inaugural trip to the grocery store. After the simplicity of a limited cereal selection between puffed rice or puffed wheat, I now had literally hundreds of options to choose from. And then I moved to the bread aisle. And the dairy case. And the row of toilet paper, where I had to decide between quilted or lotion-coated. I'm telling you, the trauma of over-choice had me in tears. The check-out clerk didn't know whether to hand me a tissue or call the men in white coats to come and take me away.
One of my life's most freeing experiences came as we prepared for our move to Korea. The mission director informed us that we would only be allowed to ship one 9x9 container with our household goods, and that included a washer and dryer and all we needed to set up housekeeping for a family of seven. This meant selling off everything we owned that wouldn't fit in that metal box. (Our parishioners all acted very sad when my husband announced his resignation as their pastor in order to move to the mission field. But they all showed up early for our big garage sale--and dickered for the cheapest prices!)
At the end of that day back in 1989, as I watched the last of our accumulated household goods being carted off down the driveway, an overwhelming sense of peace came over me. Ah, sweet freedom. Freedom from having to dust and clean and repair all those things.
I'm not sure when or how it happened, but over the past twenty years, our accumulation of things has multiplied far beyond the original quantity of that pre-Korea garage-sale inventory. Over the past many, many weeks, I've spent my evenings in our basement storage room sifting through box after box of collected things as we prepare to transform the storage area into a bedroom for Baby Kai and his mommy, Kim. Rather than a source of pleasure, our stockpile of possessions has become a burden. The thousands of decisions I must make to determine what we need to throw out, donate, or keep has brought me to the verge of tears many a night. Through all of these exercises in over-choice, I've learned one valuable lesson.
Excess does not necessarily equal abundance.
Let that sink in. I don't need to expound.
Jesus told us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." I wonder, if wrapped up in this lesson of trusting God to sustain us and provide for our needs TODAY, He is also trying to teach us the importance of living simply? When we hoard resources in anticipation of "needing it another day," are we voluntarily enslaving ourselves to the worry and upkeep all these goods require?
"Give us this day our daily bread" applies to the writer-life as well. Focus on today's necessities. . .keep your writing priorities as simple as possible. Tomorrow's word count and plot holes and character flaws and all those other choices will demand your attention soon enough. Amen.
(P.S.--The picture above is NOT my junk! Just a reasonable facsimile.)
Editor Du Jour Susan