By Hilary Horn —
This past spring I felt the Lord telling me to learn how to make bread. I had never made bread in my life and it seemed like a very daunting task. Like some things, I wasn’t totally sure why God had asked me to do this. As the months went by and I practiced this foreign art, I slowly began to realize the lessons he was teaching me through making bread. Some of these included, the power – or lack of power if it’s amiss – of yeast and the parables Jesus uses to explain the Kingdom of God, slowing down to enjoy the process, that not everything happens instantly, waiting and the nutrition of body and soul.
Starting with Yeast
Yeast is a tricky, but seemingly simple part of bread. To make a healthy yeast or sourdough starter, takes about 1-2 weeks. Each day you have to take a little out and add a bit of water and flour to your starter. You can’t forget, or else it goes moldy. Sometimes to make the starter flourish even more, you need to feed your starter twice a day, rather than once. To gain the best results and to not kill off your sourdough starter some best practices are feeding it whole wheat flour, purified water and making sure the environment it’s placed in is the right temperature. All this work and you haven’t even started making a loaf of bread yet!
In Matthew 16:6-12, Jesus warns his disciples, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
The Scriptures are full of yeast and bread imagery. By taking time to make a sourdough starter, the Lord has been making these passages become more alive. What kind of teaching am I listening to? Is it pure? Is it true? Do I have any bad leaven in my own spirit that needs to be thrown out? Do I have a religious spirit in some areas of my life? What can I feed my soul to give life and resurrection to things that may be flat or dead? Do I help spread the Kingdom of God in my community like Jesus did?
In 1 Corinthians 5:6-7, Paul says, “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
I killed my first starter. I was lazy and didn’t have purified water one day, so I used my sink water (has too much chlorine because I live in the city). My starter didn’t survive because I put tarnished water in it. I woke up the next morning with a flat starter and I had to start all over again. A week’s worth of work all in the trash. A few weeks later, I killed it again. I left it out too long without feeding it and it molded. In the trash once again it went.
I was understanding the depths of even just a little mistake or neglect can often lead to something drastic in bread. This made me think of my own life too. Yes, we have grace, but often the decisions we make to either short cut something, out of laziness or plain disobedience can set us back drastically or even kill something in our soul or community! I began to think of what some of those “old leaven” was in my life that needed to be taken out. Wether it be pride, quick to anger at my kids, lack of patience for others, listening to what society/culture is saying verses the truth of Scripture, etc. Taking time to really think of such things, to repent and start fresh was life-giving. We don’t have to carry it anymore because of Jesus’ sacrifice which allows us to give our souls pure water, frequently feed our souls because we can commune with God anytime and to make new leaven and be life-givers ourselves.
If I don’t take time to regularly do this and to be cautious of what is going in and out of me than I can be amiss in the power of my life. My life can be an unleavened, flat, Kingdom halter or a flourishing, vibrant Kingdom mover.
Next Step: Bread Dough
To actually make bread is also a long process once you have your sourdough starter! I do not use white flour for health/nutritional reasons so I desired to make whole wheat sourdough bread. I found this to be even more complicated on my bread making journey because to get a really good rise, like a white loaf, you have to do some extra steps and the process takes even longer. I adapted this overnight bread to work for us. To make the bread rise better, I have to feed my starter at least 3x that day before I make it at night. You have to make the starter really active. Then before you go to bed, you make your dough with your very active sourdough starter. In the morning when you wake up, you kneed it a little bit and let it rise again for 1-2 hours. Then you flip it into the warmed dutch oven and let it rise again for 30 minutes to an hour. After all this time, THEN you can bake it. Baking it takes about 50 minutes. So to make a single loaf of bread takes a good 2 days. TWO DAYS. But the results are glorious and I am able to feed my family very nutritious, low glycemic, healthy bread.
So what has this process taught me? Not everything happens overnight in our spirituality. In Western society, particularly America, much of our culture is focused around this fast-paced, fast-food, instant results society. We often do not take time for results. I’m convinced that a lot of things like the wide-spread gluten intolerance is because we make fast bread, fast food. If results do not come immediately, we often think we are failures or that something is wrong or we move on to the next thing. Unfortunately that has been engrained in us for decades.
Christians in America even treat churches that way. They hop around places, taking what they want and not ever investing well into their community. Not a cool enough children’s ministry? Move on. Preacher wasn’t charasmatic enough or the worship wasn’t their flavor – see ya later. Whatever the instant issue was, many treat their places of worship as grab and go. They consume it but often do not contribute anything to it. If it doesn’t fit what they want, instead of taking time to invest and maybe be part of the change or helping, they leave for the next big thing. My husband and I have been church planters for the past 3 years and we see this all the time with people that have come in and out of our churches. It just makes me really sad because they don’t know what they are missing if they truly invested in their community rather than just come to get something quick. Yet, even for me in our church plant when I don’t see immediate growth one month, I am not quick to get disappointed about it. Often, building a church or depths of spirituality takes time in your community. Just because I preached a really awesome sermon about justice doesn’t mean everyone is going to be blazing advocates the next day. These growth steps can take a long time to formulate and my perseverance and patience shouldn’t lack just because I may not see it right away.
Bread as given me a deeper understanding that not everything in my spiritual walk is going to be instantaneous. Matthew 13:33 says, “He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” First lets just point out she worked 6o POUNDS of flour. That is an insane amount of flour. One loaf is roughly 1 pound. Can you imagine the process of doing 60lbs – without an electric mixer or industrial sized machinery? This would have taken a VERY long time. The process would be hard on your hands and body. You would need to sacrifice a lot to get the yeast spread throughout all the flour.
This is something God has been showing me. The process of spreading his Kingdom can be strenuous, tiring, take a lot of time, it isn’t instant, but in the end, the results are beautiful. They are unlike anything else and they are so good for your soul. I’ve been asking myself if I am resilient and patient enough to work through a variety of things in my spiritual walk even if it doesn’t instantly happen. Will I stick it out even if the current results kind of suck right now? Or will I just move on to the next thing with out truly working out what is in front of me because it is more convenient? When I do that, what happens to my soul, the people around me or my spiritual journey? How can I include other people in this process? How do I teach my kids to be patient when they don’t get what they want right away? Do I model this for them? If I don’t see healing the first time I pray for someone, do I stop? Give up?
So many thoughts and actions I have been wrestling with just through the process of making bread! The power – or lack of power if your yeast is amiss, the Kingdom of God, slowing down to enjoy the process, that not everything happens instantly, waiting and the nutrition of body and soul.
What are some things you have seen in your spiritual journey that hasn’t happened overnight? Share with us in the comments below.