I hold in my hands a loaf of bread, still warm from the morning baking. Simple and earthy, it is food for the day. Fragrant, it is hope that I have enough.
I have come to the edge of the sea. The water is calm with the morning, misty-eyed and heavy with the waking. It reaches out over my toes, and pulls the covers back.
Something in the air makes me think the weather will not hold, and it makes me restless with the unknowing. But I have this bread, and that is more than I can say for the gulls who circle overhead. They have nothing for the stormy days.
Yet, they fly. High up into the clouds where I must squint to see them, they touch the hands I cannot reach. They are free to follow the fisherman’s wake, where even in the storms, they can glean all they want from his nets.
But this bread in my hands keeps me tied to the earth. I am not free as long as I am holding on to something.
At least I have something.
No, it is more than something. It is everything. Everything that makes me feel safe, safely separated from uncertainty, safely veiled from eternity, safely immovable. The wind can carry the birds wherever it wants. But it cannot carry me.
Yet, they fly. I can’t help but wonder at the magnificence of it. Higher and higher, they rise on wind I cannot see and they cannot control. They do not fear—they soar. But I am left here, stodgy and rooted, crushing my vulgar grip into this one thing I can’t release, the one thing that keeps me pathetic and small in the midst of glory.
I wonder where the wind would take me, if I let it. As soon as I wonder, I know.
With shaking hands, I rip at the crust, releasing a little steam into the chill of the air. Wholesome crumbs drop down into the sand and melt into the sea. My hands are full of bread as the waves roll in. I cast the bread out to meet them—all of it. I hold nothing back.
But wait! No! My very breath escapes me. I collapse into the sand. Foolishness. Stupidity. Madness! There it is on the water, my one thing, my very life, now bobbing, now sinking–wasted.
I look up to the sky desperate to rise but more bound by the earth than ever before. I have given it all! For what? For what!
There is nothing left. I am empty. I am alone. Even the gulls have left for deeper ocean as the clouds mount over the water. The wind rises, blowing sand into my eyes without lifting me higher. It is stronger than I remember it being, and it pushes me out into the water, deeper and deeper. The water swirls and foams with the storm, and I cannot fight it. I sink down into the waves, flailing, desperate. I look up at the glassy water that keeps me trapped and I see it, the shadow of bread on the water.
The waves are full of it, cast off bread, given in hope, returned in abundance, more bread than I can see.
I fight to the surface, and open my eyes before I even gasp for breath. It is all there, and more. “I do not understand,” I say to the no one and everyone as I reach out to touch that which was not wasted at all. “I do not understand.”
In all my lifetime, I will not be able to gather it all. I cannot hold it all. I cannot lose it, or even give it all away. But there is no need. It is all around me, this bread on the water.
The wind pushes the waves to the shore, carrying me to back to the very place where I started. But I am not the same. I have felt the crushing power of the wind and the waves, yet I stand as one redeemed, bought back, renewed.
My hands are empty, but I feel no fear. I feel no need to grasp on to something, anything. Everything I ever had has been given back in ridiculous abundance, but I am not tied to it. I am no longer immoveable. Like bread on the water, I am free.
Cast your bread upon the waters, and in the day of trouble, it will come back to you. Ecclesiastes 11:1