How Bread Baking Brings Me Closer To Jesus

“Y’all need to stop with this “bread is not good for

you” foolishness. Jesus did not say I am the broccoli

of life. Nor did He say give us this day our daily kale.

Stop. Jesus is life. Jesus is the bread of life.

Bread is life.”

I laughed when I saw this quote on Instagram. Aren’t the best comedians the ones that boldly speak truth? We laugh because it resonates with us but also because it makes us a tiny bit uncomfortable. Like… “Ha…ha…ha…you mean gluten isn’t the devil?” or “Lol…I've been eating cardboard for the last 3 years and don’t know what real bread tastes like anymore.”

Love it or hate it, bread has been the food of the masses for hundreds of generations. Its beginnings were nothing more than smashed ancient grains mixed with water to form a gruel that was baked on hot stones. Eventually, the Egyptians discovered that if the mother dough was left out for some time, fermentation would occur which added to the flavor, texture and digestibility of the dough. Slowly but surely some type of bread made its way into every people group, bread that is as unique as the people itself and dependent on whatever their soil has to offer. 

From the paper-thin yufca eaten in Turkey to the corn arepas of Venezuela to the spongy Injeera of Ethiopia and the corn tortillas in Mexico; bread is a sustainer of life no matter culture, creed or color. It expresses our shared dependence on something outside of ourselves to keep us alive. 

Jesus knew this when he chose bread as the most powerful symbol to remember him by. While the cross signifies the sacrifice he made for us, the iconic value of bread captures 3 vital facets of the person of Christ: 

One, bread shows us who he is,

Two, bread reveals what he came to do, 

Three, the act of breaking bread indicates our mission moving forward.

 

Who He was: 

In John 6:35, Jesus introduces himself as the Bread of Life. While this statement is complex and can’t be explained in one paragraph, Jesus declares himself as the Sustainer of Life and welcomes all to partake of Him on a daily basis. Just as the Jews depended on their daily manna during their years in the desert, Jesus calls us to depend on Him for both our physical and spiritual needs. 

 

What He Came to Do: 

Jesus’ ultimate mission on earth was to be broken so that we would have eternal life with him. It is the reason he broke bread with his disciples on his last Passover night. Essentiallyhe was saying, “Listen up, this bread you eat everyday gives you life but the grain inside has to die and be crushed before it can nourish you. Just like this bread, I am about to be broken for your sake, the breaking of bread will make you whole and you will never, ever go hungry again.”

 

What He Told Us to Do: 

The day before his “I am Bread” statement, Jesus had miraculously multiplied and shared 5 barley loaves with over 5000 people. While the disciples were hoping to split those loaves and two fish among themselves, Jesus showed them that one humble meal was enough to feed the masses if they were willing to trust in his provision. Their scarcity mindset prevented them from seeing the extraordinary power concealed in a small basket of ordinary goods. Later, they would understand the significance of his last Passover meal where instead of multiplying loaves for 5000 people, his body would be broken for the entire world. His call for communion is a way to remember this act but most importantly, it is a reminder that his body is meant to be shared.  Whatever we bring to the table, he takes and magnifies it for the good of people and the glory of God.

This is why bread is meant to be shared with people. 

It is meant to be given to the hungry.

It is meant to be broken and placed in the hands of broken people because that is the only way we will be made whole. 

It is why eating bread is a holy act whether we do it at the church altar or at our dinner tables. 

I think we’ve lost something important as we’ve shifted away from the way people have been eating bread all these thousands of years. 

In our defense, most commercial bread isn’t what it was 100 years ago. To mass produce wheat, it has been genetically modified to be resistant and consistent. It’s bleached to make it more aesthetically pleasing and stripped of all its natural nutrients so we can have more control by enriching it. For the sake of convenience to everyone involved, preservatives are added so that our bread can travel thousands of miles and sit on a shelf for a week.  The bread we eat today is Frankenstein bread. 

I’m not saying that the way we eat is how we view God, but I can’t help but wonder if our broken food system reflects our broken view of God. We’ve moved at a faster pace than the earth can give and therefore have had to resort to our own devices. 

Yet, if you spend any time on social media, you can see that there is a stirring in our kitchens. Many people are going back to an old way of cooking and eating. It’s slower and healthier and not in the least bit convenient. I think the Pandemic of 2020 forced us to lean into the therapeutic effects of cooking and baking. We watched the news and tried to wrap our minds around what was going on out there, and when we couldn’t, we wrapped our hands around dough. It grounded us somehow, reminded us that the simplicity of warm bread is all we need sometimes. 

During those unprecedented days of Covid-19, birthing wild yeast on our countertops gave us a sense of security against the wild invisible virus we were all terrified of. We were being forced to isolate ourselves from one another, so we formed colonies of living organisms in our kitchens. I did not have success with a sourdough starter in 2020, but I did take up bread baking and pasta making during that scary season. It made the space between our walls feel safe and it sure did smell good. 

In 2021, my mom died. Interesting how something so holy and tragic and life-altering can be summed up in three little words. My. Mom. Died. Yet, those three words set a trajectory for my life that I called “simplifying” but really it felt like a stripping away of my old self. I dropped out of a lot of good things that year. I took over keeping my mom’s indoor plants alive, which suddenly felt like a very serious job. 

Then one day, I successfully made my own starter. Although it took me much longer to birth than all the internet instructions I was seeing, after 14 days, the undeniable presence of a bubbly colony of wild yeast came alive. I named her Daisy, after my mom.

My new mantra these days? 

“If I’m too busy to water my plants and to bake bread, then I am too busy.” 

I suspect that if you’re reading this, you might be a busy mom. Maybe the siren call of sourdough has reached your ears but maybe it’s not your season. That’s okay. I couldn’t have done this ten years ago and the last thing I needed was another body that needed to be fed daily. My five babies and multiple pets was enough, thank you. 

However, sourdough has instilled a slower cadence in my everyday life. God has so many good things to teach us when we stop prioritizing convenience and, in the words of Eugene Peterson, let our souls catch up with our bodies. 

I believe busy moms like you can make a few shifts to accommodate the physical and spiritual benefits sourdough has to offer. The last thing it should become is another small thing on your already long list of small things to do. I’ve learned to fit it into the rhythms of my life and I think you could, too. 

Weaving bread baking into my lifestyle has taught me that I can coax supernatural moments out of the mundane. It’s given me a heightened awareness of God and how his Kingdom, like yeast, expands beyond my bread bowl and into other areas of my life. It’s not showy or maybe even exciting to the outside eye, but to those who come close, they feel the safety and warmth of it in my home. 

I think the world could use more of that; don’t you think? 

Natul Middlebrook is the founder of Mustard Seed Seasonings, where she creates artisan signature spice blends with easy weeknight recipes so busy moms can serve delicious meals for their families. She's made sourdough a part of her lifestyle and come up with short-cuts to make it a reality for other busy mamas. Email her at natul@mustardseedseasonings.com for your free Sourdough 101 PDF and get started with sourdough. 

 

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