God who provides

As much as I believe that God provides, I find it hard to live that way. Even if I believe that Jesus is the bread of life, I treat him a lot like I treat bread: as an extra to a meal, instead of being the basic sustenance of life.

I am tempted, like Sara in Genesis, to trust my own efforts in making sure things work out the way I want them to (especially if God hasn’t seemed to be providing). It’s hard not to want to take care of things myself – as our society values our ability to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.

The chapter on bread and vine in Wearing God by Lauren Winner does a very good job in helping us explore how our mixed relationship with bread can help us see how we often have a mixed relationship towards God’s provision. Winner’s quote of Patrick T. McCormick captures this well:

“What, for example, does it mean to celebrate the Eucharist as food (bread and wine) in a place where we are increasingly obsessed with and yet deeply afraid and ashamed of food, where we idolize and demonize food, where we are increasingly disconnected from the sensual pleasures of good food, and where we have gone a long way toward losing our sense of food as a blessing that ties us to life and others? Or what does it mean to celebrate the Eucharist as body of Christ when our diets seem to be waging a war against our bodies (particularly against the bodies of women), when the ways in which we eat do not honor our bodies, or when our eating patterns seem indifferent to the suffering bodies of all the Lazaruses gathered at the edges of our tables, as well as all the Marthas waiting on those tables?” (Winner, Wearing God, 113)

Those of us who are able to provide for ourselves – and most graduate students are in this category, even if they are in the lower income range – have a vague sense of God’s provision, at least for our physical needs where that provision comes several steps removed from the food that is on our plates. This provision is less removed when it comes to our emotional well-being, especially amid the stresses of grad school.

Participating in the Eucharist, with its small quantities that can not physically feed us, provides an opportunity to see God’s provision anew:

“In the Holy Eucharist, we take a miniature sip of wine and small bite of wafer, and we call this God’s abundance. I believe by regularly proclaiming that God’s abundance can be found in something small, we are gradually retooling our understandings of what is truly necessary for life.” Winner, Wearing God, 102-3.

When we remember that the God who provides does not always provide as we want or expect, I believe we are more able to live fully into the belief that God does provide. More so, this provision is not just for me, but especially for those whose idea of bread as sustenance is not gourmet bread but Wonder bread that is cheap and readily available or corn tortillas or rice that almost fills the stomach when there is little else.

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