Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Soul Food

I had seen this day coming like a thick cloud of dust on the horizon.  The day my husband died, I knew it would come.  I tried everything to avoid it, but as soon as I woke up this morning, I knew this was the day.  Even before I could open my eyes, I felt the dread in every part of my body.

Today my four children and I would eat the last of our food, bought with the last of our money.  And then what … then what? 

I have no other honorable way of making more.  I can sell myself or my children.  Not much of a choice.  The weight of that decision made it almost impossible to raise my body off of my bed.  But then my youngest shifted and whimpered in the bed beside me.  At least I can feed her for a little while longer.

As I fed her, I tried to make a plan for the day.  I had been doing the best I could to keep the house cheerful.  If there seemed to be a little less food at each meal, the children didn’t seem to notice.  But today, I wouldn’t be able to hide it anymore.  What was I going to do when they started saying they were hungry?  How could I tuck them into bed tonight and convince them that tomorrow would be better?

Finally, I decided the best thing to do would be to distract the kids.  We’d eat and then we’d take a long afternoon walk outside of town.  And hopefully they’d be so tired when we got home that they’d go straight to bed without thinking about eating.  And maybe by tomorrow morning, I could come up with some way to feed my children.

I probably don’t need to tell you that I didn’t rush the kids to wake up.  I figured that the later they slept, the shorter the day would seem.  Have you ever noticed how kids seem to have a sixth sense about when you want them to sleep late?  I have.  Those are they mornings they pop up bright and early, ready to go.  This was one of those mornings.

My throat ached from the pressure of unshed tears as I watched my children eat the little food I could give them.  My heart was breaking as I laid out for them the day’s “adventure”.  And off we went.

My feet were lead, but the children seemed to be enjoying themselves, picking up sticks and interesting rocks, running ahead and back to share each new discovery.  As we came closer to the Sea of Galilee I noticed a huge crowd of people who seemed to be tracking the progress of a fishing boat out on the water.  That direction seemed as good as any at that point, so we headed toward the crowd to see what was going on.

As we got closer, I learned that the crowd was trying to intercept the boat.  Apparently someone really important was on board.  The crowd’s energy was high, lots of talking, shouting, and laughing.  At the same time, many in the crowd were silent and anxious; some were even helping or carrying a sick or injured person.  It was a very interesting group of people.

The boat neared shore, and the excitement among the waiting people grew.  Even my children, as well as the other children felt it.  They stopped running around and stood quietly waiting for the boat to land.  Finally several men stepped out of the boat and came ashore.  I couldn’t see anything special about any of them, but the crowd around me became absolutely silent as the group walked among us.

As I watched, I noticed that all the men arrayed themselves around one man and treated him with great deference.  Oddly enough, he didn’t carry himself like one of the great men of the town, he stopped to speak to each person along his was.  For every person he had a smile, a quiet word and a touch.  I found myself wanting him to stop and speak to me, I couldn’t have told you why at that time, but the longing to be near him grew with each moment.

This man didn’t hurry; he progressed slowly through the crowd.  I began to hear a name over and over again, from the whispered conversations of those around me.  Apparently this man’s name was Jesus.  I realized I had heard the name before, but had paid no attention to it, but now…

I watched as he came nearer and saw that the people who had been helped by friends, didn’t need help any more.  They were standing on their own, often laughing or crying or both.  As Jesus passed me, he laid a hand on the heads of my children and smiled at each one and then put his hand on my shoulder.  He looked straight into my soul; I felt that anxiety and grief I had carried for so long melt away.  “All will be well,” was all he said, and I knew it was true.  Then he moved on, but in that instant my world had changed.  This was no ordinary man.

At last, Jesus made his way to a small hill, sat down and began to talk to us.  We sat on the grass and listened as he told us about a new way to live, a place called Heaven, and his Father who loved us and wanted us to love Him; a Father who was just longing to do good things for us.  I had never heard anything so wonderful in my life, and I wasn’t alone; all the people around me sat in rapt attention to the words of Jesus.

I have no idea how long we listened.  It seemed like a moment ... or a life time, but the next thing I knew, the sun was setting and Jesus was talking with the men who had come with him about feeding the crowd before sending us home.  I looked at the people around me and knew that there was no way for those men to feed us.  Not even four boats of that size could carry enough food for this many people.  And nobody in the crowd looked anywhere near rich enough to buy that much food, even if we had been close enough to town for that to be a reasonable prospect.

Then one of the men, brought forward a boy with a basket.  And something unexplainable happened.  Jesus’ friends walked through the crowd having us gather into groups of about fifty people and asked us to sit down.  Some people began serving food to each of the groups.  I couldn’t figure out where the food was coming from, but it was more food than my family had seen in several months.  My children and I ate until we were satisfied for the first time in a very long time.  I'm sure I could see them becoming healthier and stronger with each bite of this miraculous food.

When everyone had eaten, Jesus told us to put all the leftovers in baskets.  He said we were welcome to take home what food we needed and sent us on our way.

As my children and I walked home with our basket of food, I felt a joy that I can’t explain.  We weren’t any richer than we were this morning.  I didn’t know what we would eat after this food ran out.  Nothing really had changed, but everything had changed.  “All will be well,” Jesus had said, and I believed him.  I didn’t understand, but I believed.  I knew I wasn’t alone and that my Father in Heaven loved me.  What an amazing day.
 (Based on information found in Luke 9, and E. G. White’s, The Spirit of Prophecy Volume 2, Chapter 20.)

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