The conspicuously loud crunch of the cracker snapped me back to attention. I’d been absorbed in the lyrics I was singing, although I hardly had to think about them – that’s how familiar these songs have become. With the lights dimmed, I felt my husband James’ hand press lightly against the small of my back as we walked down the aisle toward the station where communion was set up.
“Oh! precious is the flow that makes me white as snow. No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
I sang these words quietly as we moved forward in the line, this weekly ritual so familiar that it was almost rote. In the darkness, I reached for a piece of broken cracker and dipped it in the little metal bowl filled with grape juice. As I lifted the cracker to my lips, I saw it was a bit larger than I expected and not quite saturated with juice, so instead of being soft and nearly dissolving on my tongue, the cracker snapped and crunched under my teeth.
I became acutely aware of what I was doing – the breaking and taking and eating and consuming – that I grew a bit uncomfortable, almost embarrassed, of my need to chew and swallow this small wafer-like thing. The taste was not unpleasant. Salty and a bit sweet, the buttery cracker was tinged with just the slightest hint of juice, and I enjoyed the taste as I broke the cracker down, changed its form, and took it in.
As I swallowed the now softened cracker and felt it slide down my throat, I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be returning the following week for that ritual. Instead, I’d be at home, resting, recovering from a bad case of bronchitis, and wishing I could be with my husband at church instead.
As is usually the case with illness, though, this downtime has afforded me more reflection time, quiet time, writing time. The things that used to be sustaining rituals for me, part of my regular routine. But with the major life changes of marriage, moving, and a new job, I haven’t found that new rhythm just yet. I haven’t woven stillness and reflection and writing into married life the way I hope to.
Perhaps that’s why other rhythms like church and communion and community group have become a bit too routine as of late. I haven’t built in time to allow these vital components of my walk with Christ to truly get deep into my core. I haven’t made space for those disciplines to reflect back to me the places where I need to grow and to lift my eyes above the day-to-day. While “going with the flow” has its merits, I’ve needed to step out of the flow for a moment – to pause and reflect and rely on strength outside myself.
Going on a week of this cold and this crummy cough, I’ve abandoned my morning workouts, asked James for more help around the house, cancelled long-awaited visits with friends, and had to work from home, which – for an extroverted introvert like myself – leads to a bit of cabin fever.
But, in the stillness, sitting here on the couch with my humidifier and my tea and my VapoRub and the birds singing outside in the morning sun, I’m content. And my mind keeps returning to last week, to Sunday, to communion, the scandalous snap of the cracker on my tongue.
That weekly taste of the bread and the wine – the cracker and the juice – can become all too familiar. And I’m grateful for how God snapped me to attention last week, reminding me of my need for him. My hunger. His provision.
“But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you… For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” (John 6:27 & 55 NLT)
The Scandal of Grace
I’m increasingly aware of how seemingly scandalous and intensely intimate communion is, and how it is such an incredible reflection of our connection to Jesus. Because this is what we do with Him. We break Him with our need, with our own brokenness. We take Him in, and He fills the emptiness. And in that process, He breaks us down and takes us into Himself. We are made one with Him, and we are changed.
At the same time, we’re still waiting. Waiting for more closeness, more intimacy. We’re waiting to be made whole.
“And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were giving this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)” (Romans 8:23-25 NLT)
Patiently and confidently waiting,