Friday, September 30, 2011


For some reason, I resolved to write a post on family life and medical training and then I made an announcement of my intention here.  To get closure or clarity, maybe, or perhaps it was because I thought I might be able to say something of practical use for someone going in.  Surely, after seven years, I could reflect logically and reasonably on the process and the season, couldn't I?

The problem was, those two stories--starting a family and starting medical school--are intertwined for us.  I had the babies and he went to school.  And then began the Dreaded Residency, with capital "d" and "r" and a third baby.  In both the living and the writing of our story, there has been joys and tears, and after about 57 million attempts at drafts to tell the story of why, I had to give it up.  A decision which, instead of adding to my sense of discouragement, finally somehow brought peace.

There are people who, when writing about past events or trials in their lifetime, look back and see abundance and plenitude of grace.  Stomachs, minds and souls filled and fed on a hillside, with twelve full baskets leftover besides.  Feast, in the presence of the Son.

I don't understand that miracle story as well as some of the other ones about bread: the Syro-Phoenician woman who begs for crumbs, and the story of that widow, the one at Zarephath.  Scarcity and suffering, famine and fear.  In the second account, food is indeed multiplied, but not in abundance.  The man (a prophet though she didn't know it) arrives on her doorstep demanding a meal, and she shares even though she is sure there isn't enough.  Oil and flour made into a small piece of bread--not enough to satisfy, just enough to maintain life for one more day.  It is too small and it seems impossible that it could do any good.


Then, each morning, more bread is made and the supplies are exhausted once again.  Just enough and no more, like the manna that was gathered in the desert--only enough for a single day. 

Still hungry, always hungry, the widow and her son are the lucky ones; they survive the famine.  The miracle feeds them and they are alive each day to witness another one.  Hungry yet grateful, the widow lives, praying and looking forward to a time when there will be plenty.  And in the meantime she and her child are fed by the prayers of a prophet in order that their faith story can nourish others.  Their faith, their hunger, their humble meals, a foreshadowing of the real bread of Word and Presence so that we will come to believe that we, too, can offer ourselves as broken bread.

In later years when they remember the season, the widow and her son probably also remembered the real and physical pains of never-enough.  Their story also has survived, told and retold if not for their sake then for ours.  We are the ones now who need to learn that just a bit of bread, made from dust in an empty jar and the oil of greasy fingerprints--how it is always a little bit of nothing that is transformed into bread that nourishes. 

1 comment:

  1. Maybe I can just come over and have tea, then. And anyway, those pictures are very tempting.