On Recent Adventures and Remembering the Bread

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I’m going away from my home now, like a bird leaving the old nest, and I’m fond of home. This room with its four plain walls has opened out into Heaven. Here have I drunk in God, here have I prayed, here have I wept, here have I worked, here have I agonized, and now, Farewell home!”

So wrote Oswald Chambers when, at the age of twenty-one, he packed his bags and went out without knowing.

It’s astonishing how you can be at one time gladder than you’ve ever been and also laboring under a sorrow as wide as loneliness, a grief that’s past mending. No one told me it would be like this: that triumph and desolation walk side by side, that life is so fast and so dangerous.

I’m in my first home away from home, where some things are missing: such as the narrow green stairs and the big picture windows over the pond and the pastures. Such as paychecks and darkwalks and checking the rain gauge. Such as family games and supper-table politics, and my little brother coming into my room to say goodnight each and every day of my life.

And some new things have come about, which have never been: such as big happy lunches at tables crammed with acquaintances, and cycles of cards in the lobbies and frisbee on the lawns. Such as sunset over the bleachers, and the printer humming ceaselessly, and the silent camaraderie of the library. Such as our faces lighting up when we recognize each other across the streets. Such as my little brother’s letters in the mail, sealed with rubbery wax.

Everyone says you learn so much away from home, and I don’t know about that, but in my short two weeks away, I can say I’ve learned one thing: out in the big world, what matters most isn’t education, experience, classification or credits, but kindness and the people who put the courage back into you. That isn’t what I expected, really. But it’s what I’ve found.

Because you can have every qualification in the book, and be far from qualified to do life. You can possess much valuable knowledge and yet be worthless in the scheme of things. Because what counts is to have your eyes open, to look outward and be awake, to smile at the evident and dormant beauty of people, to get out from behind the tyrannical lens of I, to see the world for what it is instead of for my place in it.

And if I have not love, I am nothing.

In the midst of all the changes and the new things, some kind people have made time for me, and last week invited me to a service where I heard something which particularly spoke to this condition of unsettledness. The pastor went to the grocery store to get just one thing that his wife asked for – bread. He got oreos and ice cream and fruit juice and chocolate milk, and filled a cart with good things and purely out of absentmindedness and distraction, he went home with no bread.

Abandoned_City__Matte_Painting_by_MarcoBucciIn the world I come from, there are altogether too many choices, too many possibilities of delight, too many potential disappointments to fret about. And something happens to obscure single-heartedness and urgency. It’s all too easy to find ourselves startled by things going wrong, and personally offended by the realization that we can’t have it all. (Me too, me too!) We talk about life like it’s a war, but seventy years can feel like a truce pretty quickly, a break in which the barracks become a premature party.

I wonder, though: what if I only had four?

Because after all my years of waiting for a next step, it’s finally come to me, and I’ve stepped out into it, and it’s only a four-year road, beyond which is a whole forest of darkness. So I’m asking, what if four years were all that was left and beyond that nothing?

loaves-of-breadI’m not sure about you, but I think I’d do them like they mattered, those skimpy four years. Not cramming in experiences, not mourning their conclusion, but busied with matters of consequence, with witness and with work.

So if we can’t have it all – if this is a battle-ship and not a pleasure-cruise, and we are going down with all hands, I guess what matters isn’t the next port, but the lifeboats.

And oh, my soul, don’t forget the Bread.

17 thoughts on “On Recent Adventures and Remembering the Bread

  1. I loved this line, it sounds like something Wendell Berry or Marilynne Robinson might pen: “We talk about life like it’s a war, but seventy years can feel like a truce pretty quickly, a break in which the barracks become a premature party.”

    Well put. Can I ask where you moved from/to?

    1. Thanks for your encouragement. That is high praise indeed! 🙂

      I moved about four hours away from home to attend university. I’m still in Texas but away from my family for the first time.

  2. I don’t know how I missed this post for so long on my reader but now that I’ve found it I’m finding much prayerful praise through it, for I felt as if I were reading both a prayer and a praise, underwritten by trust in One who is worthy of all trust. And here is one unknown to you except in fellowship with our Lord who prays for you increasing knowledge of His love and your riches in Him through Jesus Christ. May God bless you and keep you ….

  3. Sweet Bryana! Like the commenters before me said, your words are beauty and truth! Change can be growth, and walking my own path of triumph and desolation, I am comforted by your call to not waste one moment of it.

    “Because what counts is to have your eyes open, to look outward and be awake, to smile at the evident and dormant beauty of people, to get out from behind the tyrannical lens of I, to see the world for what it is instead of for my place in it.”

    Love it.

  4. Indeed: “I’m not sure about you, but I think I’d do them like they mattered, those skimpy four years. Not cramming in experiences, not mourning their conclusion, but busied with matters of consequence, with witness and with work.”

    Lately, a phrase of Elizabeth Elliot’s has been on my heart and mind: “This gift for this day.” It’s been a reminder to savor the varied gifts each day brings–some of them gifts that I’d rather prolong & am tempted to rail against their passing, others of them them gifts I didn’t ask for and would rather return, but each one a right and good gift for this day. May you continue to have eyes to see and a heart to embrace each good gift, remembering the Giver. 🙂 Best wishes on this new journey!

    1. Thanks for your comment. Such good words from Elizabeth Elliot, too. I hadn’t heard that before, but I think it really does sum up a lot of what we know instinctively (or should!) about all these transitory things that are still so beautiful, and all these painful things that seem so eternal.

      Thanks for your kind wishes, too.

  5. You do have a very very (to the power of infinity) beautiful way with words. I can go on and on, but I fear I might sound creepy 🙂

    “I can say I’ve learned one thing: out in the big world, what matters most isn’t education, experience, classification or credits, but kindness and the people who put the courage back into you. That isn’t what I expected, really. But it’s what I’ve found….” I loved this and also of course the whole post.

    Can’t wait for the next one!

  6. You have such a beautiful way with words. When I read your posts I want to curl up in a chair and read a bit, then think on them a bit, and then read some more and just let the time tick by. Your posts soothe my soul as I read them and I must smile in agreement when you said, “I can say I’ve learned one thing: out in the big world, what matters most isn’t education, experience, classification or credits, but kindness and the people who put the courage back into you.” Ditto.

    I’m so delighted that you are finding your way and your new ‘family’ at home away from home. 🙂

  7. I equate your blog with the dawn, Bryana, because no matter how tired I am and how dark this world is, the sense of light beaming through your words gives me a beautiful stillness. You consistently force me to pause, as if you’re saying, “Look. Over that hillside. Something better. Something brighter. Don’t forget it and don’t stop chasing it.”

    May God grant you peace and strengthened jubilance as you step into this next stage. May He always be your Home.

    Oswald Chambers’ words are now written in my Book of Commonplace.

    1. Thank you so much for your kinds words, Elizabeth. I’m glad I can be one of the people who reminds you of the Better Country, because I need people to remind me as well (oh, so often!).

      “May He always be your Home.” Thank you for this.

  8. “smile at the evident and dormant beauty of people…get out from the tyrannical lens of I”

    Bryana, even when the ticking of my watch is the loudest (you know, those busy days that seem oh so less than 24 hours), I never regret taking the time to read one of your blog posts. When I try to explain your writing, to myself or to others, all I can think of is the word ‘poetry.’ Your words strike chords in me that, unfortunately, don’t get plucked enough. Thank you for the encouraging post, particularly the little sentence pasted above that pricked my own heart.

    In your new adventure away from home, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

    I’d love to know where in the world He has brought you. If you feel comfortable revealing where, shoot me an email! 🙂

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