“Give us this day our daily bread.” We ask for that daily bread every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer. We say it so often we may not even hear what we’re asking for. Daily bread. Not bread for a lifetime, or a year, not even a week. Daily bread. We ask God to give us what we need today. And we know that tomorrow we’re going to need it again.
Recently Mary Ward and I were reflecting on the matter of crises in the parishes we’ve been associated with. We came up with a long list of minor crises that we have survived. We also came up with a shorter list of major crises that we’ve gotten through. By major, I mean crises that we considered to be career-threatening. We came up with 13. 13 times we have been involved with events or situations that we knew at the time could well have led to our being asked to leave the parish we were serving. Some of those crises were due to decisions I had made as the rector. Some of them were situations evolving from major issues the Episcopal Church was dealing with at the time. Some were crises developing from the manner in which parishioners had conducted themselves. All, as we looked back on them, were situations thrust upon us and bigger than our ability to handle on our own.
There’s a cumulative effect of crises in our lives. The stress of those crises builds up, true enough. But a sense of perspective also builds. If you’re dealing with one big crisis, there’s a lot of anxiety that springs up. But, if you’re dealing with several at one time, that somehow makes it easier. Maybe there’s only so much anxiety we can experience and if we have to spread it around over several situations, no one of them can seem life-threatening. Or maybe, when we have that many crises at one time, we know we need some help and we ask for it. Just having one crisis may lead me to think I can just work real hard and fix the problem. But several at one time humbles me enough that I have to resort to faith.
We may think that having faith is knowing that all with be well and having a sense of peace within. But faith, in my experience, is not always peaceful. Oftentimes faithfulness is accompanied by anxiety. We don’t really know how things are going to end up. We let go of final outcomes of scary situations. And we just focus on the next step we need to take. The situation we are facing is far too big for us so all we can do is take things one little step at a time. Faithfulness is more a matter of putting one foot in front of the other without knowing where we will end up than it is knowing where our steps are going to take us. And, yes, that results in a sense of peace, but peace built from struggle rather than the absence of struggle.
Most every day in our lives contains minor or major crises. There we get to practice faithfulness. There we are invited to be faithful, to focus on the one next step required from us and to let go of the overall outcome. No matter our faithfulness or lack thereof, another crisis will come along. It’s not a barrage to separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s a constant flow of life’s events. How we responded to the last crisis doesn’t determine how we will respond to the next. We may have done very well or very poorly in the last challenge but here comes another all the same. We can approach those crises as enemies to defeat all alone or places where we will need to ask for daily bread. The promise of Christ, and our experience as people of faith, is that the daily bread is given.
Life is designed to help us come to know our need for God’s help and to receive that help. Talk of sin and redemption isn’t meant to imply that we can defeat struggle on our own. It is the truth of our existence as children of God. We need help and help is daily given. When we ask God to give us this day our daily bread, we put ourselves in the healthy and humble place of receiving all that God has to offer. Crises aren’t tests for us to pass. They are place where God’s abundant grace will be revealed.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.