In Hebrew, Beth-lehem is two words and means “house” (Beth as in Beth-el, “house of God”) and “bread” (lehem). The word Bethlehem means the ‘The House of Bread’. In a time of famine, Elimilech took his family away from the ‘house of bread’. Don’t we all do this. We seek bread anywhere else but the house of a bread….we seek bread in Moab…
On Sundays we were given one square of fudge. It was about the year 1979 and I remember always being hungry. Sakeji fudge is a fond memory of finding grace in broken and hurting places. It is something like a brownie but the sugar is crystallised so it tastes way too sweet and is grainy in texture..but when children are hungry…hungry for food and affection, the fudge became for me a symbol of comfort and hope. Hope for the sweet treats waiting for me back home….my own bed, my mums hugs and the joy of not being so far away. We each had a Milo Tin to keep our treats and fudge in but unlike some of the other kids, my fudge would be gobbled up before the sugary sweetness could barely touch the sides of my mouth. No ants were ever going to even get a morsaI because I was hungry. I learnt that comfort comes in sugary sweet things and keeping sugary sweet things for later was not my way. So began a love relationship with food to find comfort and so too, the long battle from the age of 5 of seeking to find in food what I would never truly find outside of Jesus, the true bread. My emotional and spirtual hunger would continue and still does today but thank goodness, like Naomi, I discovered that comfort is not found in Moab, but found in the comfort of real food. The nourishment found in feeding on true bread.
As I look back over my life I am drawn to places in my life that I did not recognise I was starving. I grew up going to Sakeji School..a small school in the middle of Central Africa…I remember being hungry all the time. I had to to eat everything I was given and hunger will make you do that…eat everything. Going home to my mum for holidays she would use food and her gift of cooking and hospitality to show us love and comfort and make us feel welcome and at home by giving us our favourite foods. I discovered emotional comfort in eating that lead to an eating disorder…where I equated food with home and comfort and the cycle began but it never satisfied and so the cycle got faster….
That starving feeling took years to break…It was not just a physical hunger it was an emotional hunger ..no 5 year old should find the hugs of their parents missing….it leads them to believe that their heavenly fathers arms are missing too and it leads us to go seeking comfort elsewhere.
No five you old should find themselves starving for real food, nor should they be starving for connection.
I was 40 before I realised why these emotional cycles remained long after the eating disorder disappeared.
Those emotional cycles of famine in my own life continue but I have learnt to recognise them. Why do I now have such a hunger for the word of God …because it nourishes satisfies what nothing else can. No other book reads me like the Bible does. No other book feeds me like the bible does. When Jesus said ‘ I am the bread of life’ he, living word was reminding me that the Josue fo bread is no longer a place but a person. I find my heart craving Moab more than I like to admit but Naomi’s story reminds me that it it will lead to emptiness.
I look back and see that very few pastors or leaders and those who were meant to feed have taught me to make bread out of grain. I as a nurturer, must be careful not to toss the grain at people and expect them to eat it. I have been taught to make bread out of the grain. I was taught how to harvest the grain and crush it to make the flour that would turn it into something palatable and easy to digest. When I look for Christ in the scripture, that is when I find the grain turns to bread and brings life. It is my responsibility to teach others how to harvest the grain and turn it into bread and then feed on it.
When I was in my teens my mum taught me to glean the grain but I just didn’t want what was on offer. She used to throw grain at me hoping it would taste like bread. I needed something tangible. I wanted something that tasted sweeter. We can not just feed people..we must invite them to the table and prepare something that is palatable. Giving grain instead of bread, to a hungry person will make them sick. We must make something that a hungry person is able to digest.
When home back in the village of Kipushya, with my family and our home made traditions, we would get to taste the scrumptious delicious treats of home…so often people come seeking something different to bread because they don’t know what bread tastes like.
Famine for each of us and the hunger we feel for ‘real’ food of comfort and hope is very real but comes in so many different forms. There are times when famine hits me hard and I only know it because I find myself not feeling satisfied with the things with what God prepared for me.
I have had times in my own life when famine has hit me hard and it felt very painful. I know I have blamed leadership, my husband and even my schedule…but it is often because the bread available is not what I like or am used to.
Hurt and brokenness births a quest to find something to fill the void that hurt leaves behind . We can seek to fill it with places, people, busyness, food, alcohol, sugar, fun, a job and role…MOAB. Moab is the greener grass, anywhere but here, the other side and ‘what they have’…
My orphaned heart at the age of 5 had to learn over time that hunger for comfort and home is found in CHRIST and whenever I seek manna outside of him I will fall short and find myself sickly and hungry but when I find it in God ..I find exactly what I need…and the hope in him and comfort found in him is enough.
Leaving Moab….heading back to the a house of a bread…..was it hunger that lead Naomi to leave Moab…
I want God’s voice to lead me out. We often get up and leave something , out of frustration or hunger when we really should have found what we need in him.
I do not want desperation to lead me away from my source of food…but I do like that her desperation lead her back to him…..and back to the House of a bread. Guess in some ways I find purpose helping others way back to the House of bread and the one who calls himself the bread of life. I find purpose in helping others see why Moab is not for them and why the house of bread they are meant to find their home.