"Give us this bread always." A 2020 Baking Lenten Journey

Updated: Feb 26

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Observing Lent is a fairly recent practice of mine; I’ve only been participating for about the past fifteen years. A few years ago, I shared that I had to reimagine what Lent could mean for me in the midst of an incredibly difficult season of loss. Lent became less about what I needed to “give up” and more about how I journey with Jesus to the cross.

The Easter season, in itself, is incredibly difficult for me. Not only was Easter my mama’s favorite holiday, it was Easter 2017 when I experienced the depths of depression, suicidal ideation and was hospitalized. My body remembers the excruciating heartbreak I experienced that Good Friday and, in an effort to honor how far I’ve come from that night, I now spend Good Fridays making the various vanilla extracts I then use for my holiday baking later in the year.

Lent has become a moment of deep personal reflection for me. Had my friends not stepped in to save my life, I would not be here today. As we journey with Jesus to Calvary, it’s impossible not to remember the times he’s journeyed with us through our own valleys of the shadow of death. And, on Resurrection Sunday, we celebrate that everything that tried to kill all of us failed. We emerged victorious. That victory isn’t just for us, though. It’s for us to reflect God’s ability to rescue, redeem and revive.

As I thought through how I would spend Lent this year, I couldn’t help but think about how many of us aren’t necessarily reflecting that right now. It has been a rough start to 2020. We have experienced so much corporate tragedies, in addition to whatever we may be dealing with personally, and the pain is palpable. It has caused us to turn on each other with even more fierceness than we have before. It’s become almost impossible to scroll through our timelines without wincing at clap-backs that went a little too far or wondering how long it’ll be before someone actually posts up and requires what was said online to be said to their face. It’s getting bad and this is not who we are supposed to be to each other.

The more I kept thinking about our responsibility to be better to and for each other, my thoughts immediately went to bread. Not Jesus as the bread of life or “bread from Heaven, feed me til I want no more.” I started thinking about bread bread. White bread. Buttered yeast rolls. The brown bread at Cheesecake Factory we all get hype about and tell them to just bring a basket for the table. I began to think about bread. And, honestly, it made sense.

When I researched bread, I learned it is the one food common to almost every culture. In some cultures, its presence at a meal is seen as a sign of deep respect and reverence for the dinner guests. In others, bread is essential and no meal is complete without it. Think about that one meal you love that is already great but becomes perfect with a roll or piece of cornbread. Bread matters and no matter how many doctors tell us to curb our intake, we need bread for more than reasons of nutrition.

There’s something to the communal nature of it. Perhaps that’s why the children of Israel made sure to take their bread when they left Egypt (Exodus 12:34). Every baker knows that tampering with a dish before it’s fully done completely changes its texture and consistency. The children of Israel didn’t care. Whatever bread they would have in freedom would be more delicious than anything they ever tasted in bondage. The Feast of the Unleavened Bread honors the urgency with which the children of Israel fled Egypt and still experienced the provision of God (Exodus 12:39). The bread served as a reminder of not just God’s deliverance, but it reminded them that they could get through anything together.

We are supposed to do what bread does for each other. We are supposed to respect and revere each other. We are supposed to treat each other as essential. As Believers, it is impossible for us to do that without following the example of Jesus. In John 6, Jesus tells his disciples of a bread that will sustain them beyond their physical needs. Wanting more of it, they ask Jesus to “give us this bread always.” It is then Jesus tells him that he is the bread of life and anyone who puts their hope in him will never be hungry again. Here’s the thing, though. When we commit to walking with Jesus, we’re committing to being better people. We are recognizing our role in making the world more safe for people who do not experience its safety. When we ask Jesus to “give us this bread always”, we are asking to be held accountable to manifesting grace, healing, joy and freedom in the Earth.

So, this Lent, I’m spending time away from social media and in my kitchen. Over these next 40 days, I’m trying out five international bread recipes and reflecting on how I can be more like bread this in this world. I’ll also be reading the Gospels to follow the journey of the enfleshed God who broke and became bread. Jesus taught us how to do life together and, if we’re willing to pay attention, it will change our lives.

Here are the five recipes I chose: North African Coriander Bread; Focaccia; Naan; Challah; and Matzah Bread. On Shrove (Pancake) Tuesday, I’ll be making Rosa Parks’ featherlite pancakes. I can think of no better way to honor the day before a time of consecration and celebrate Black History Month!

Should you choose to go on this journey with me, I’d love to hear how it’s going for you. I won’t be checking my social media but feel free to email me (hello@candicebenbow.com). When I return, I’ll make sure to post all my pictures­–the good, the bad, the “God, I hope she didn’t give that to anyone.”

May we all walk towards the cross and be forever changed.