Saturday, September 01, 2012
Making and Baking a Marriage
In a few hours I will be doing the wedding of Erynn and Tom. I am filled with joy and anticipation. I'm sure it is nothing compared to what they are feeling about this special moment in their lives. As I have pondered over the last few months what words to express the love and hope I feel, the Lord reminded me of bread making.
So often our culture approaches marriage as if it is not worth one's time, or even worse, like it's a piece of cake. It equates marriage to the party of the year, a beautiful, shining moment that looks glorious and tastes great. One thing I've learned through my own sixteen years of walking this path: this ain't no cake walk.
Because making a marriage is like making bread.
I love the process of making bread. It is time consuming; it takes me all day. But it is so satisfying, every part of it. That's how marriage is. It takes time. It has seasons and reasons that are beyond our comprehension when we've only just begun. But as they unfold and we walk together through them, hand in hand, heart to heart, something so sweet and satisfying starts to emerge.
Marriage, like a good loaf of bread, begins with quality ingredients.
When I bake bread I use both white and whole wheat flour. Both are so different. One carries the flavor, the other carries the texture. But once they are in the bowl, they become something different, better for being together. The same is true for marriage. It takes two unique individuals, who are complete in themselves yet come together for a purpose beyond themselves. It's like God takes the stuff of who you are and combines it with some other good stuff, coming up with something amazing. I love that.
We don't arrive at this time and place in a vacuum. We are brought to this moment by a whole world of experiences that have shaped us into the people we are. More importantly, we are brought to this moment by a whole village of important people who have shaped us into who we are. In the recipe I use, it's called the starter, or sour dough. This in a sense is the bread that has gone before us. Our families and friends have written all over our life stories, giving us our character, our values, being the birthplace of our hopes and dreams. We wouldn't have anything to bring to the table if it weren't for them.
The best bread has a hint of sweetness. The best marriages are filled with it. I like to add a little extra to my bread. While the recipe only calls for a quarter cup white sugar, I also add a quarter cup of brown. We need the sweetness of joy in our lives, but especially in our marriages. It would seem odd to have to remind ourselves of this. But let's be honest. Sometimes the demands and struggles of life begin to encroach on our ability to simply enjoy ourselves and one another. We can lose sight of the importance of just having fun together. We say to ourselve, "Oh, if it's fun and enjoyable, it's not as important as the other big stuff that matters." And all too often couples forget what it's like to laugh together and to play. And they begin to go through the motions. And they forget what it feels like to smile in the other person's presence. So be liberal with the sugar. It makes bread and marriage so much better.
In the mix of making bread, it is important to remember balance. This is why salt is so important, it adds balance to the flavors that are mingling together. We always produce salt in our tears. And there are sure to be tears as we walk through life in marriage. The challenge is to embrace those things that are difficult and challenging, to see them through, to live them well. This is what adds character and flavor to our marriages. When we walk through pain together, we are bonded in a way that makes intimacy deeper, our love for one another closer. Even when we cause those tears, if we can have the courage to work out those differences we find that we come out stronger on the other side. And we also become a sign of hope and grace to others who are struggling.
There are two more ingredients in this bread making adventure. In fact, in making bread they begin the whole process of combing ingredients. I'm speaking of water and yeast. Before any other ingredient goes in, yeast is added to a warm bowl filled with warm water to dissolve. Traditionally water has been used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Great Helper, the Companion, the Wisdom of God guiding and directing and leading us in the journey of life. Water gives us refreshment. It is a reminder that we need something beyond ourselves to make it. There will be days when we are not enough, when we need more than we have to give to make marriage work. And that is when the Holy Spirit steps in.
Yeast is like that too. It is the power of breadmaking. The yeast causes the bread to expand, to rise, to taste just right. Without it we are left with a dry cracker. The Power and Presence of God is like that in our marriages. We need God's Power and Presence to help us rise to the occasions that demand everything from us. We need God's Power and Presence to make us more than we are. We need God's Power and Presence to transform us from simple ingredients to something that can feed and nourish.
Of course it's never enough to just dump ingredients in a bowl and stir. There is a Baker and there is a Process. God is the one who leads us through this journey. In bread making there is a lot of waiting. I remember someone once saying, "Thank God for the grace of unanswered prayer." I had just poured out my heart with prayers I was praying for my husband. I was done with waiting. I thought she was crazy. But what I've learned is that it is in the waiting that my strength and faith have the opportunity to rise, to be developed. And in our marriage I have found that the waiting times allow me to see the beauty and strength of the man I married. Bread just wouldn't be the same without allowing time for the dough and loaf to rise. We wouldn't be either.
And yes, there is the kneading. Nobody wants to be stretched and pounded. Let's face it. Marriage is hard work. It stretches us in ways we never anticipated; it demands more of us that we ever thought we would give. In the kneading God is making us one. God is taking two separate and distinct individuals and melding their lives together into something greater. That never happens without having to reach beyond what we already are.
And yes, there is the heat. There is no way around it. Marriage is life shared together. And life always includes those seasons of intense heat when we think we cannot stand it anymore. If we can just have the courage to trust the One who is leading us through the fire, we can rest assured there is something amazing on the other side. It is the fire that brings everything together, that forms us for the purpose we were made for.
Isn't this what we came here for?
Marriage like bread, has an ultimate purpose. Bread is meant to feed and nourish. So too our lives are not our own. We are given to each other and to the journey to become more than we could be on alone. And as our lives are shared, and formed, and kneaded, and heated together we become people who can feed others with the love, the joy, the peace, and hope that have come forth from this marriage journey. Our living is meant for more than just ourselves and each other. We are meant to make a difference in the world.
So my sweet Erynn, dear Tom, this is my prayer for you: That God, Who is the best Maker of marriages, will help you to become one; that God, Who is the ultimate Baker, will form and shape you into a family that brings hope and grace to a hurting world.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11
I love you both.