I can only imagine questions that every parent hears that elicit a pang of discomfort: Are we there yet? Do I have to? Where do babies come from? Why?? Why not???
In my house, the most dreadful question of all was, “What’s for dinner?”
Its daily repetition taunted my mother. She never liked cooking, but she worked tirelessly to provide us with healthy food. And if she ever heard one of us complain that there was nothing to eat in the house, she said we weren’t looking hard enough. Within moments, my mom could pull together odds and ends, and make something that would sustain us. Maybe it wasn’t gourmet, but it would provide adequate nourishment.
I didn’t inherit my mother’s dread of dinner. I delight in time spent in the kitchen. I’m filled with joy and anticipation to see a fridge or pantry stocked with ingredients with which to create. I am nourished on every level when cooking healthy, colorful, and flavor-filled dishes and when sharing them with the ones I love. In the kitchen, I am in my element and the world feels right.
My recent move out to Minnesota for graduate school has been bumpy at best. I moved away from Denver and CVV – the place that I consider home and the community where I feel most nourished, to follow what I believed was God’s call in my life. Don’t get me wrong – the people here are kind and welcoming, I’m learning a lot in my studies and my job, and life is just fine. It is a privilege and blessing to be exactly where I am. But I haven’t yet encountered the joy or fulfillment I thought I’d find in following this mysterious call. I feel like I traded in my fully stocked kitchen for a pantry scattered with a few odds and ends.
A few months ago I told my spiritual director that I felt like the Israelites after they left Egypt – wandering and grumbling. I felt frustrated, impatient, and uncertain. I said to God, “I did what you asked of me. Did you lead me here just so I could be unhappy and homesick?” Just like the Israelites, I willingly chose this path after arduous prayer and discernment with God. And just like the Israelites, living into the choice I made proved a test to my faith. I felt like God didn’t know what God was doing. Maybe this was all a big mistake and I should just go back. I knew transitions were difficult, but tired of feeling aimless and out of place, I was ready for entry to the Promised Land.
In our conversation, my spiritual director reminded me of the miracle of the manna in the desert. Each day, manna would fall from the sky, and the people would be allowed to gather only enough to sustain them for that day. But of course, unsure that God really knew what God was doing, the people tried to store up extra food for the future. The next morning, they would wake to find the loaves spoiled and full of worms.
Sr. Eunice asks, “What if you just asked God to help you find enough for today? Each day, could you trust God to put enough fragments in you path to sustain you through that day’s wandering?”
I thought of my mom, telling me to look harder into the depths of the pantry. Even though I love to cook with a full kitchen, I didinherit her ability to make a meal with the fragments. It was a skill that served me well during CVV. It may not be gourmet, but it will provide adequate nourishment to get me through the day.
I’m not in the comfort of my old home, with easy access to the places, relationships, and conversations that have sustained me these past four years, but maybe that’s an important part of journeying into the desert. Maybe I need to let things fall apart enough so that God and I can get to know one another in a new way. Maybe I can learn to trust a little more and delight in the opportunity to cook with new ingredients.
I can’t be certain what will come over the next three years of study or even over the next week. And I’m not sure it’s fair to demand answers from God. All I can do is ask God to open my eyes to the fragments I can gather on the path today. And if I am offered the gift of tomorrow, I hope I can trust that God will repeat the miracle, and that I will be sustained.
My time of wandering may last a little bit longer, but there will be enough for today.
There will be enough for today.
But I think God and I both know, I’ll probably keep asking “What’s for dinner?”