God is a god of abundance, not a god of scarcity. Jesus reveals to us God's abundance when he offers so much bread to the people that there are twelve large baskets with leftover scraps (see John 6:5-15), and when he makes his disciples catch so many fish that their boat nearly sinks (Luke 5:1-7). God doesn't give us just enough. God gives us more than enough: more bread and fish than we can eat, more love than we dared to ask for.
God is a generous giver, but we can only see and enjoy God's generosity when we love God with all of our hearts, minds, and strength. As long as we say, "I will love you, God, but first show me your generosity," we will remain distant from God and unable to experience what God truly wants to give us, which is life and life in abundance.
This was yesterday's offering from the Henri Nouwen Society and it made me smile, not just because young D and the other Little Fishes are so very good at reminding me of this truth, but also because of an experience at Llan.
The arrangement for private retreats there is that one wonderful home-cooked meal is provided each day, and the fridge and cupboards in the East Wing kitchen are stocked with all you might need for other snacks and meals during your stay. The food is always local, and top quality and the lack of clutter, barking dogs and hovering computers means that every meal there becomes a leisurely ritual...I eat at a proper table, take time to notice what I'm consuming, and am certainly more consciously thankful than I am amid the muddles of home. In fact, meals at Llan become sacramental acts in themselves.
When I arrived last Monday night there was a lovely loaf of new bread from the local bakery waiting wrapped in the bread bin, and a slice of that with some amazing honey made a blissful breakfast. It was just as good with "Gold and herbs" cheese and salad at lunch time, but though I was making inroads on the loaf there was still plenty left the following morning, when A. announced that G was baking, and there would be home-made bread in time for lunch. I protested that I really didn't need it. The shop loaf was very tasty, and I had quite enough for the whole of my stay.
A. smiled but said nothing, and just before lunchtime, as I sat on the terrace in the sunshine he appeared bearing half a loaf of steaming white bread, straight from the oven.
It was, of course, delicious and I appreciated it hugely for itself, but also for the reminder of God's joy in giving more than we can either desire or deserve.
A few weeks ago as part of the Spir Dir course we had a wonderful day on Ignatian Spirituality, which remotivated me to practice the examen,- and I took Sleeping with Bread with me to Llan.
The story behind the title, as described on page 1 of the book, is a joy...
During the bombing raids of WWII, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, "Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow."
As the orphans found tangible comfort and reassurance through holding the bread, so the process of looking back each day and noticing the times of consolation and desolation, the moments for which I'm most grateful or most regretful, makes it easier to attend to God's presence and work in my life. For me, at Llan that day, bread was very much part of the story.
(If you're intrigued by the whole idea of the examen, Lutheran Chik posted a link a while ago to a site which invites a weekly examen as a "Monday meme". I'm not sure that I want to post my examen regularly:you're all very patient with my introspective exercises, but you can have too much of a good thing,-but once in a while it might be a good discipline. What do you think?)