Creating the Conditions for Spiritual Growth
Bread dough the color of molasses yielded to the pressure of my working fist. Fold, press, turn, repeat, and soon I lost count of how many times I had kneaded the fragrant lump. With the recipe calling for three hundred repetitions, I began to wonder—Three hundred? Really? But switching to the heel of my hand, I persevered. Eventually, I sensed a change in the texture and smooth elasticity as the gluten developed the necessary strands that would capture the gas bubbles created by the yeast, allowing the dough to stretch and expand as it rose.
Bread-makers want to create the conditions for the dough to rise, but we are completely helpless to make it happen on our own, so we trust the recipe. We follow the directions given. Reading the Bible and kneading bread as purely physical acts could easily become sheer discipline, items on a never-ending checklist. However, viewed with an awareness of the invisible, life-giving force at work behind the scenes, I find that I am participating in something that is bigger than what I can see.
Therefore, I will follow the teaching of God’s Word, because I am in relationship with its Author—not because I fear losing that relationship. I will persevere in the disciplines of the Christian life, because I am held in a hope that is based on strong promises—not because I am hoping that the disciplines themselves will hold me in the faith.
Needless to say, in the making of bread and in the practice of godliness, I will always be a beginner, mechanically counting the strokes as I knead (and then losing count); reading words of life at the dining room table, fitfully on some days and fervently on others.
Jesus, the Bread of Life, comes to us as we take the Living Word into our being in a way that changes us. God directed both Jeremiah and Ezekiel to eat Scripture, the Old Testament equivalent of the Bible. In the book of Revelation, John swallowed a scroll. Absorbing the truth into their cells and sinews, they imaged the necessity of assimilating God’s Words, taking them into the soul.
My imperfectly executed commitment to follow God is based on true words that seek to describe but in no way explain his glory. Faithfully meeting with God, holding to the written Word, and holding myself before it has looked different in every season of my life. There is no secret formula and no “perfect” method. The point is to make it happen.
Propping a Bible on a couch pillow while I held a sleeping baby and cobbling together study time during naps eventually gave way to keeping a bag packed with Bible, pen, and notebook during the mini-van years. I reviewed Scripture memory projects in the middle school parking lot, and I still sometimes carry 3×5 cards in my pocket when I walk the dog. In a perfect world, a serious student blocks out distractions and finds a regular time to meet with God daily. In a mother’s world, the serious student is responsible for keeping those “distractions” alive, so she perseveres in being flexible in every season.
My regular reading tends to focus on short passages read repetitively. For example, it will take me the better part of a year to make it through Proverbs, one chapter per week, but for the past five years, my husband and I have read through the Bible together out loud, giving me an aerial view of the biblical landscape. Study and meditation go together whenever I am preparing to teach as I read and seek to understand the words as they were received by the original audience, to consider how they relate to Jesus’ person and work, and only then to make personal application.
Immersion in Scripture is the foundation by which I resist temptation, cynicism, and passiveness. I declare that God owns my heart and create space for the Spirit of God to work in ways that are unseen and yet vital to the regular rhythm of relationship. I long to know God, to walk in his ways and hear his voice, and he has made it clear that when I read and obey the Words of Scripture, I am obeying Him and making room for the Spirit to work in me. Therefore, I trust “the recipe.” I follow the directions given.
Michele Morin is a teacher, reader, writer, and gardener who does life with her family on a country hill in Maine. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, and three adorable grandchildren. Michele is active in educational ministries with her local church and delights in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. Connect by following her blog at Living Our Days, or via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.