Ingratitude

I’m definitely going to bake this bread today. Thanks, Suzanne.

I have to laugh at myself sometimes. I don’t know how many times I have read the book of Exodus. There the Israelites are, led by a pillar of fire or a pillar of cloud (depending on the time of night or day), and what do they do? Complain. They moan and whine from thirst, and God gives them water. They cry from hunger, and God gives them manna. And what do they do? Claim that things were better when they were slaves because they had meat and honey.

Every time I read this account, I marvel that a people could be so ungrateful. Every morning, they wake to find a miracle: thin wafers of life-sustaining bread resting like the dew on the field. There is plenty for everyone to get their fill. Nonetheless, after a bit, the Israelites dream of better meals: heartier breads, fresh fruit. This daily gift from God is taken for granted and even despised.

Before meals, we ask God to bless us and the gift of food He has bestown upon us. Yes, perhaps I labored to make that lasagna or bake that pie, just as the Israelites had to labor to gather the manna, but ultimately, those dishes are from God. The more removed I am from the creation of the dish, the harder it is for me to appreciate its Divine origins. And so, during Lent, I avoid restaurants and take out food. I avoid social situations where someone else prepares the food. I eat simpler meals, no sweets, very little meat, and I try to avoid extras like salad dressing and mayonnaise.

Nothing makes a ripe juicy pear taste sweeter than having no other source of sugar.

My main food options are soup and bread. Often, the soup is from scratch. This week I made tortilla soup from a package. I didn’t want to put the effort into a flavor I wasn’t sure I would like. Oh, goodness, this soup is fantastic, and I can’t wait to try one of the many recipes I’ve seen for it. And most of the breads I eat are homemade. I use the bread machine to make the dough, and then put it in a loaf pan. For the kids, I use this pan to make mini-loaves, and they love the slices that are just right for their hands. But the little slices don’t go in the toaster well, so I prefer normal loaves for my cinnamon-raisin bread and onion-rye bread. And, since I am very weak, I did not give up the butter that I generously spread on each delicious slice.

Unlike the Israelites, I am not at a loss for flavor. I’m not restricting myself to broth and plain bread. My food is quite enjoyable. And yet…

And yet, I found myself looking longingly at the lunchmeat I was serving my children yesterday. Under normal circumstances, I eat lunchmeat about once a month. It’s not my first choice for lunch, when I typically eat leftovers. But there I was thinking that a few slices of salami slathered with some Hellman’s on my homemade bread would really hit the spot.

{sigh}

In my misery yesterday, I recalled my judgement of the Israelites as ingrates. They did not even have cinnamon-raisin bread or the decadent cream-of-tomato soup that is in my freezer for next week. Two weeks of Lent, and I am longing for salami, yet I dare criticize those who had plain wafers for months for not being happy with what they have? Oh, how the Lord knows us so well.

Every Lent, I am reminded just how attached to this world I truly am. Perhaps I don’t need a big house or a fancy car, a plasma TV or a spa tub. Perhaps I can pat myself on the back because I do recognize the obvious blessings in my life like a high-speed internet connection and central A/C. But the bottom line is that I take for granted my basic requirements of food, clothing and shelter. I pray “…give us this day our daily bread…” the way my children mutter “thank you” out of habit and not true appreciation and with the expectation that there is always more just waiting for them.

I have a long way to go.

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