My dad has been baking bread as long as I can remember. The story he and my mom tell is that when my mom was pregnant with me, she was so sick that just the thought of most foods was nauseating, so her weekly bread baking began to lag. While my dad wasn’t in the kitchen a lot then, he also wasn’t afraid of it, and he thought to himself, I watched my mom do this all while growing up. It can’t be that hard. Thus began what is now a forty-plus year hobby for him. When I was a kid, I can remember him many a Saturday morning working a pile of dough, fingers dusty with flour and his brow furrowed as he watched the state of the dough’s development. In middle school and high school, we all started to make requests of him for special occasions, and he branched out, trying different kinds of yeasted breads. 

Sometime after I finished college, Dad’s bread baking skills went up another level when he discovered sourdough. He was hooked, and that began a whole new repertoire of bread recipes. About twelve years ago, he gave me some of his sourdough starter. I can’t say that I was hooked instantly the way he was, but it intrigued me and still does. (I’m also proud to say that I’ve kept that starter alive to this day, which is longer than I’ve owned any house plant.) Sourdough is different from any other kind of bread I’ve made, and I’ve discovered that it has some things to teach me about life and the way that God works.

Good stuff can come from really long processes. One of the main differences between baking with commercial yeast and sourdough is the time factor. While many basic recipes using commercial yeast require two rises lasting somewhere around an hour each, a sourdough recipe can have several rises totaling eight, twelve, or fifteen hours. When I first started using sourdough, I was annoyed by this lengthy process. The more I worked with the starter, though, the more I appreciated its slowness. The spiritual applications are rich here. God doesn’t work at my desired speed. Being content with how long it may take for God to accomplish something has been hard and good, even when it’s seeing something inside me come to fruition.

We don’t have to fuss with things in order to make them turn out okay. If a recipe takes eight hours from start to finish, I may only spend fifteen minutes of that working with the dough. The bread doesn’t suffer because of my lack of interaction with it; in fact, it succeeds in large part because I left it alone all day in the bowl. I can get so uptight and worried and think that I need to endlessly manipulate a situation in order to control outcomes. The bread reminds me that leaving something in God’s hands really means leaving it, but also that God has never failed to act for my good. 

Sometimes simplicity is best. The most basic bread recipes call for flour, salt, water, and starter. That’s it: four ingredients. Could we add butter or sugar or spices to it? Absolutely. But we don’t need to in order to have an amazing loaf of bread. In the same way, I overcomplicate my spiritual life, adding in things that while they aren’t bad, inadvertently distance me from the God with whom I am trying to connect. Prayer really is just a conversation with God. Reading the Bible really is as simple as reading to learn who God is and how he loves his people.

A bowl of bread dough may seem like a strange place to receive an education about God, but then I think about Jesus’ ministry. He did some of his best teaching from boats, fields, and dinner tables, and he regularly used images from farming, construction, and nature. Every moment of our mundane, ordinary lives is an opportunity to see the way God is always working to draw us closer to him, and I am even more grateful for the parables he has been telling me right in my very own kitchen.

Jessica Scheuermann

Jessica is a part of our Christ’s Church family and serves as Academic Resource Commons Director & English Professor at our Impact ministry partner, Ozark Christian College.

Jessica is pictured here with her husband, Ryan, and son, Josh.

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