• Cynthia McCarthy

The Spiritual Bread Fight

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

I once asked my boyfriend to stop at the store on his way home from work and pick up some bread. You are probably picturing a loaf of bread right now in your mind. I don’t know what you are picturing, but whatever it is, hold onto that picture for just a second.

Later that evening, he waltzed into the house with a long, skinny French baguette inside a fancy white sleeve of bakery paper. He set it on the counter along with a couple other items he had bought and then started systematically putting things away. I squinted at the baguette and tipped my head like confused little puppy. What I wanted and needed was a loaf of store bought, pre sliced, boring old white-or-wheat-doesn’t-matter, wrapped in a clear plastic bag with a twist-tie bread. The kind of bread a kid would use to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for their school lunch. No one makes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a French baguette. What the heck was this guy thinking?

At this point in our relationship, we had been together as a couple for more than eight years, living together almost four, but something about him bringing home this crusty baguette made me want to rethink things. How could he not instinctively know what we needed? How could he not know what I meant when I said, “Pick up some bread?” How could he misunderstand such simple directions? Did he really think I meant a fancy, crusty French baguette? Is that what he pictured in his mind?

“I said bread,” was all I could spit out. I suspect my irritation and outrage was not well hidden.

He gave a pathetic shrug, no doubt realizing his mistake, and dug in his heels.

“What? Is that not bread?”

Well of course it was bread, but at that point I was more interested in beating him with it than trying to make him understand how wrong he was. That crust though…ouch. I stumbled through the explanation that I wanted regular sandwich bread, the kind we go through every week like normal sandwich making people.

He dug his heels in further and said I’d have to deal with it. I, being the cool-headed, spiritually aware person, walked away from the argument.

But the whole misunderstanding got me thinking…

If a word like bread could be so misunderstood, so misconstrued, and lead to such frustration, anger, and disappointment, I suspect a word like God could cause a lot more trouble. Even between people who seemingly love each other like we do.

The real root of the bread problem was this: what he graciously brought me home from the store was a) not what I wanted and b) not at all what I needed. I couldn’t do what I wanted with that version of bread he brought home. He messed up my plans, and that’s what irritated me.

I wonder if it’s the same with God. Everybody has their own particular version of God. If I asked everyone to picture God in their minds, whatever that means to you, everyone would be imagining vastly different ideas. For instance, my version of God is a universal loving power present in our human consciousness. She is found in a blanket of stars, the ocean waves, a colorful sunset, as much as He is found in the ancient wisdom texts, churches, synagogues, temples, and ashrams. It’s what I connect with through meditation and prayer, and it’s what I consciously co-create with in my life, through affirmations and positive self-talk. That’s the version of God I use, the version with which I make my sandwich for my daily lunch.

I have friends though, very good friends in fact, who enjoy getting out the giant serrated knife needed to carve out a crusty piece of their “French baguette” version of God. They might read from a certain holy book, sing two hundred year old hymns, or take part in rituals whose meanings are totally lost on me. I can’t always do much with their “French baguette” style God. We still eat together though, and get delightfully fat together on our versions of the same thing: bread (God.)

We don’t force feed each other and insist our version of God is the only correct one. We don’t present our versions to each other and say, “deal with it." In fact, most of my friends like getting together to sample each other’s God offerings. We chat about the things we find weird, awesome, and different. We say things like, “Wow! This is meaningful to you? How interesting…” and “I’ve never thought about God in this way—I love it!” We talk and laugh and think and grow spiritually. I’m really grateful for that. It feels like we’re one community of seekers, individually discovering the best parts of God that work for us personally and generously sharing those morsels with each other.

It reminds me of a beautiful poem by Rumi called “One One One.”

“The lamps are different

But the light is the same.

So many garish lamps in the dying brain’s lamp-show,

Forget about them.

Concentrate on the essence, concentrate on the Light.

In lucid bliss, calmly smoking off its own holy fire,

The Light streams towards you from all things,

All people, all possible permutations of good, evil, thought, passion.

The lamps are different,

but the Light is the same.

One matter, one energy, one Light, one Light-mind,

Endlessly emanating all things.

One turning and burning diamond,

One, one, one.

Ground yourself, strip yourself down,

To blind loving silence.

Stay there, until you see

You are gazing at the Light

With its own ageless eyes”

Perhaps God is the truth that transcends all versions of itself, all manner of tradition. I believe God is ultra-personal to man, in the most universal sense, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that is what really matters. I also can’t help but be reminded that "man cannot live by bread alone…"

In case you were wondering, the boyfriend went back to the store for me that night and got me the bread I wanted because he’s actually a very nice person. If you find someone who does things like this for you in a relationship, keep them. If you find someone who encourages you to experience your own version of God and is the least bit interested in sharing theirs with you, keep them, too.


Rev Cynthia

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