Sunday, December 16, 2012

They are Eating My Prayers (the hungry are filled with good things)


I stand over the small wooden table gazing at the meal, my eyes taking in its beautiful simplicity.  The host ladles me a generous scoop of steaming, creamy soup and I shuffle slowly around the table in silence with my fellow retreat participants.  I fill my plate with a simple fresh salad, top it with nuts, and move on toward the bread.  Reaching my hand out to pick up a slice I notice that each piece is generously buttered.  It's enough to make me want to weep.

To me, that butter is love and I see immediately how buttering bread can be an act of love - generous, simple and true.  With the sweep of a knife and the smooth gliding-on of glistening yellow goodness that bread became a sacrament, a means of grace, that butter yet another expression of the love of God in the world. 

*   *   * 

James Martin’s book, Becoming Who You Are, includes a discussion about Andre Dubus, an author who became a paraplegic in mid-life: 

In his essay, Dubus, a devout Catholic, describes the laborious process of making sandwiches for his young daughters to carry with them to school. As he maneuvers his large, bulky wheelchair around his cramped kitchen, as he reaches for the utensils, as he tries to open cabinet doors from his awkward position, and as he cuts the sandwiches, he realizes what he is doing for his children.

             Each moment is a sacrament, this holding of plastic bags, of knives, of bread,
             of cutting board, this pushing of the chair, this spreading of mustard on bread,
             this trimming of liverwurst, of ham. All sacraments . . .

Dubus wrote about this in an essay entitled “Sacraments,” where he also says the following, 

A sacrament is physical, and within it is God's love; as a sandwich is physical, and nutritious and pleasurable, and within it is love, if someone makes it for you and gives it to you with love; even harried or tired or impatient love, but with love's direction and concern, love's again and again wavering and distorted focus on goodness; then God's love too is in the sandwich.  (Meditations from a Movable Chair)

*   *   *

There are so many days when I feel it to be true – the fact that I simply don’t have enough to do this job of mothering well.  Not enough patience, not enough compassion and curiosity, not enough LOVE.  I am so busy.  I am so tired.  I am running on empty.

But still, I feed them, even if that feeding only consists in the tearing open of a bag full of salty, fatty carbohydrates; even if the meal was bought with money we didn’t have because for once I just wanted to sit down and relax together, gathered around these few moments of guilty pleasure. 

I chop, I peel, I dice and slice.  I sauté, bake, simmer and spread every day, three times a day or more.  I ladle, scoop, and dish it out.  These rituals I perform day in and day out, like a liturgy of love, each stroke of the spoon a prayer, each flip of the spatula an amen. 

These days, when feel I don't have enough, I trust, I hope and pray that these simple acts of love, these sacraments coming as they always do in broken ways will be transformed as they’re consumed.  Sunbutter and jelly sandwiches, gold fish and juice-filled sippy cups transfigured into love so that even on the days in which I have so little to give, they are being filled with good things. 

These children of mine, they are eating my prayers, being filled, bite after bite, with love. 


8 comments:

  1. This post was written prior to the outrage at Sandy Hook, CT. In response, I would like to offer this prayer,
    Oh God, we will never have enough you know; never enough to cover over the pain and heartache of living in a broken world. But we gather around those who grieve anyway, bringing halting words and silence and we cook for them and for ourselves. We come bearing gifts of sorrowful soups salted with tears and bread that was kneaded in rage, we bring casseroles of prayers held together by love and when the grief is too heavy to swallow these down, we offer the thin broth of lamentation spoonful by spoonful, hoping, praying it will see us through 'til morning comes. And we all cry out together as we gather around this communion of grief, "Come, Lord Jesus, Come."

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  2. Kelly, Reading that fills me with a sense of peace. Thanks.

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  3. I read an essay by Dubus in The Spirit of Food that touched me so deeply. It was about eating with his beloved and how that was communion for him. It was gorgeous. Really opened my eyes to the holy in the common. As did the events in Connecticut. Still praying for those dear ones.

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    1. I know, just those few lines make me want to read his collection of essays . . . probably too late to add to my Christmas wish list for this year though! Thanks for stopping over.

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  4. This is stunningly beautiful writing. I'm savoring your words. Visiting here from I.P.

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    1. Elizabeth, Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. There's so much beauty to be savored, trying to slow down to feel it!

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  5. Andre Dubus is on of my favorites. Read "A Father's Story" if nothing else. I return to it again and again. Great post. I have 3 kids, too, 3 of whom are still ankle biters; I feel you.

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    1. Brandee, is that an essay? I'll have to add it to my list, about once a year I visit the library where I went to college and haul home a huge stack of books - I loves me some books! Thanks for commenting!

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