Exodus 16:11-18, 31
I grew up having bean soup on winter evenings. I had difficulty swallowing it, but had little choice, as it was the main dish. Mom cooked navy beans, added milk, and when it was hot she crumbled bread into the soup. The result? Soggy bread. Even the browned butter she drizzled on top didn’t alleviate the misery of eating hot soggy bread.
The traditions of my parents’ generation included bean soup after a Sunday morning Amish church service. The accompanying cold sandwiches, unique in their own way, are still tasty in my memory and in real life. Slather peanut butter spread (corn syrup and marshmallow cream stirred into plain peanut butter until light and creamy) on a thick slab of bread, add slices of bologna and cheese, and top it with sweet pickles. Absolutely delightful.
But I vowed to save my family from the bean soup. I did pretty well until one February when I decided to make it a “Buy Few Groceries Month.” We would use up our stored canned and frozen foods and buy only milk and lettuce. In a distant past I had purchased unusual items that promised to shake up a menu, so the experiment worked to clear the pantry and freezer.
As I sorted cans and found recipes to match, I wondered why I wasn’t like my sister, contented with ten basic menus. But no, I wanted delectable Danish and five-step chicken parmigiana.
Now I was regretting my craving for exotic dishes. Take the bag of assorted legumes. What was I thinking when I bought it? I couldn’t bare to scrap it, so I added tomato sauce and spices, but it was still only slightly palatable. I looked around at the forlorn faces of my still-hungry children,—and to my mind sprang the disliked soggy-bread bean soup of my childhood. I laughed, then got up and fixed grilled cheese sandwiches.
It’s not that we don’t like soup. We do, but broccoli cheese, hearty hamburger, taco, or ham chowder. I wonder, could we learn to be content with bean soup? Or do we have to have the special, cheesy kinds to be happy?
It isn’t a surprise that the children of Israel grew weary of their manna. Day in and day out, the menu was the same. Manna. They failed to realize that it was a miracle food. Perfect in every way. God offers variety. One look at flowers and trees shows that part of God’s nature. As another example, I appreciate my sister-in-law’s way of planning activities to bless her nieces and nephews. In this way she is using her gifts to add variety to their lives.
But sometimes life is plain and maybe even as boring as bean soup. But God offers spiritual manna: salvation, peace, and joy to the soul who seeks him. When God’s love fills my heart, even the mundane tedious tasks are palatable. My task may still be to wash dishes, weed a garden, mend a shirt, or scrub a rug. But if the Lord’s joy is in my heart, I can sing praises as I work, and my spirit may be content. Yes, even with bean soup.
Lord, your life within and around me keeps life interesting and joyful. When I feel bored or draggy, help me to reach out to your words of inspiration and life.
Does life feel flavorless and boring?
How can you add a smidgen of spice?
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Faith Sommers is a conservative Mennonite mother, wife, and columnist for Ladies Journal, a publication for Amish and Mennonite women. She and her husband Paul have six children between the ages of six and twenty-one.