Bread is one of my favorite foods. It’s light-but thick, and has a crust whose crunch and aroma will fill an entire roomlike a vibrant symphony fills an auditorium. Inside this glorious, rough exterior lies the pillowy showcase of spongy flavor. Seeping through every bite, every bit, yeast mixes with flour and flavor to create a blanket over the tongue and captures the nostrils to becomes entangled in the dance of smell and taste.
When you bake bread, you throw a bunch of ingredients into a bowl. One of these ingredients is yeast–bacteria. You let it mix around until it makes the dough rise. After it rises you must punch it down and kneed it through your fingers and palms. Once it again, it rises. Once again, you must punch it down. Bacteria, air, patience, pressure, air, pressure…the cycle continues until you finally place the dough into pans and into the oven–kissing the dough with fire to bake and cure it.
Before placing the bread in the oven it has no smell, no crunchy crust, no spongy flavor. But as it bakes it begins to exude an aroma that fills the room.
How often do we feel mixed around–even muddled with “bacteria”? We find ourselves in less-than-ideal situations and certain circumstances seem to erode our attitude, our well-being, our personality, and our general stability. Aside from the bacteria-infested circumstances-we undergo pressure, we feel beaten down. Beyond the beatings and the bacteria we begin to feel the fire. It does not warm the lips as a lover’s kiss; the heat wrenches away layer after layer of skin, until we cannot recognize our own reflection.
But that’s the point.
The ingredients are changed by the ‘bacteria’. The dough is changed by the fire. The bread becomes something different than before–it becomes something more. What now is seen as the preferred and final outcome can only be possible by what we label as as bacteria and fire-objects we would normally identity as dangerous and to be avoided at all costs.
But once again, so it is with us. We have become something different than before; we have become something more. We cannot always distinguish what is bacteria and what is best for us. We do not always understand what we call beatings, nor do we often appreciate what feels like fire.
We are comfortable with our former selves. Somehow we find the mushy, sloppy mess of dissasembled ingredients preferable to the process that leads to transformation. We cower at the thought of certain change, we cringe at the mention of moving beyond our warmed spot into something colder and unfamiliar, and we refuse to entertain the possibility that something may be better than “the way we’ve always done it.”
What we don’t often realize is the bacteria pushes us to grow into more of our true selves. What we cannot see immediately is the cold and unfamiliar climate made warm by the love of grace and compassion. Finally, we are blind to see the small and narrow way that sits just to the side of the wide road that is always traveled.
Although entangled with bacteria, pounded by pressure, exposed to uncertain air, and cradled with flames, the dough emerges as something more. This bread is now light-but thick, and has a crust whose crunch and aroma will fill an entire room like a vibrant symphony fills an auditorium. Inside this glorious, rough exterior lies the pillowy showcase of spongy flavor. Seeping through every bite, every bit, yeast mixes with flour and flavor to create a blanket over the tongue and captures the nostrils to becomes entangled in the dance of smell and taste.