I am by no means proud of the way the interior of my 2005 Toyota Tacoma looks right now. The outside — muddy and black, sporting bumper stickers testifying to my love of In-N-Out burger and the Baltimore Orioles — still makes me smile, but the mess inside is getting beyond embarrassing. Boxes of cereal, snack wrappers, and receipts have piled on top of dirty clothes and work files, somehow bearing witness to what has become a fast paced, red-eye lifestyle I’ve found myself living.
A lot has been going on with me in recent weeks, and for the most part, I guess that’s good news. I’ve transitioned into a full-time job, and in addition to adding two hours of commuting to my day, I’m still trying to “live in fast forward” with the kind of lifestyle I was clinging to even when I was an
unemployed bum less committed individual.
But I’m finding that this new schedule is leaving me dogged tried every day. Not only in a physical sense, but an emotional and spiritual sense too. I’ve been staring at computer screens and grabbing bites to eat between meetings, all the while rushing from work to the gym to the car and then back to work again. And through it all, I’ve mostly just been feeling tired and hungry, wondering what the hell I’ve gotten myself into.
Kind of like the Old Testament Prophet Elijah, actually, whose story of lethargy and hunger amidst the travails of daily life was spelled out in Sunday’s first reading:
Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.
He prayed for death saying:
“This is enough, O LORD!
Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree,
but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.
Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake
and a jug of water.
After he ate and drank, he lay down again,
but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,
touched him, and ordered,
“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”
He got up, ate, and drank;
then strengthened by that food,
he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb
As the kind of person who has defined who I am a “food blogger” at times, I could say it’s funny, or ironic, that the Bible has so many references to food. Symbolically though, it makes sense. For the Christian, and for anyone, really, spiritual and emotional hunger is as much a part of life as physical hunger. We’re all looking for a pick-me-up, a rush of energy and vitality to help us continue in ours jobs or our goals when we’ve walked too long without a proper meal. Elijah felt that hunger in the desert, and I had been feeling it — literally – in the way I’ve been trying to live the past month.
I’m reminded though, that when we turn to God, even in a moment of panic or doubt or self-depreciation, we’re given what we need to continue. Sometimes its spiritual and emotional food — the call-back from a job interview, maybe, or just the out-of-the-blue visit from an old friend — and other times, it truly is physical sustenance. There’s a catch though, and it’s something our deacon reminded us on Sunday. God only gives us the minimum of what we need. What we do with it, and how we allow it to guide what we do next, is up to us.
Translation? Maybe attempting to live out of my car and off of cereal and fast food wasn’t exactly the kind of food I should have been asking for. Maybe, instead of rushing and consuming, I should be thankful for tha chance to rest and enjoy, allowing myself to gain strength for the journey of the week ahead.
And there’s nothing I enjoy more than a bright and lazy afternoon with a Panini and a salad. But not just any Panini and Salad, mind you. I’m talking about a Pumpernickel and Muenster Panini with wilted spinach and grilled onions and tomatoes, as well as a fresh and milky Peach Caprese.
I’m of the solid opinion that pumpernickel is the most underappreciated of all breads. Einstein Brothers makes a great bagel, which gets a crusty outside when put into a panini press. Tomatoes and basil right from the garden make it in here, as does some shaved turkey breast. If you’ve never had Muenster in a grilled cheese you’re missing out. It’s like American, except much freaking better.
I don’t know when the first time I heard about a peach caprese salad, but there’s nothing I enjoy more in the summer that the sweetness of a ripe garden tomato with the bite of a firm peach and the rich milky taste of mozzarella. There’s an almost ice cream like freshness to the cheese, which, with a little sea salt, basil, and balsamic, takes on flavors that are anything but ordinary. This is the kind of salad that makes you thankful for the summer’s bounty.
There’s something undeniably satiating about not only eating, but making, an actual meal. It’s as if a sense of completeness that you’ve done something from start to finish, and enjoyed not only the composition of the flavors, but the experience and the energy it will give you.
I know this will be another busy week for many of us. But with the kind of nourishment — in body and spirit — that God provides, and the kinds of examples from those like Elijah, I’m sure each one of us will make it through our own particular deserts. Who knows. We might even find a way to take bread alone, and make it into a symphony of flavors worth sharing.