Guest Post by Jennifer Lee
I watch my farmer-husband cut the onion, in the same methodical way that he carves rows into fields each spring.
Outside, shadows stretch long across the yard. My man’s stalk-stubbled fields hibernate under snow. His hands crave work, even when acres sleep.
He had announced it to the whole car on the way home from church: “I’m making supper tonight!”
I beamed relief. I considered a book I might read while he chopped and stirred. Or perhaps a longer nap, under my favorite plum-colored blanket. But when he pulls a knife from the drawer, I set down the book and push away the blanket. I migrate to the kitchen, for I want to read him instead.
He cuts the onion in half, and then in halves again, leaving corpulent chunks to bathe in butter. He extracts thick sirloins from the plastic packaging and arranges them in a pan. These are the hands that rip open the threaded seed bags in spring, that clutch frolicsome baby pigs. These hands were once soft, back when they held fat, gilded volumes like Civil Procedure, Courtroom Evidence. His law-school books are in the basement storeroom now, lid snapped shut.
Rough farmer hands, cracked from winter work, turn the dial on the oven. He wears one single gold band that I slipped on his finger 15 years ago.
He works wordlessly, mostly. Pots clang. He occasionally asks questions: Which pan to use? Where’s the recipe for steaks, the one we use in the winter when snow shrouds the grill?
I’m eager to sink my teeth into a medium-rare cut, but right now, I savor the work of a farmer in my kitchen.
I pray silently: “God bless the hands who prepare.”
One night earlier, I underlined Author Lauren Winner’s words: “… be present to your food.”
Lauren wrote that a right relationship with food points us to God. “This reflection on and participation with my food leads ultimately back to him who sustains, provides and feeds.”
Could I do that? Could I move closer to food as a way to inch closer to Holy God who conferred it?
It seems sort of silly, like I’m overthinking things. Someone might say I overspiritualize my life, looking at onions and Iowa beef as something sacramental. I mean, to get up close to God by watching my husband dismantle an onion? To get close to God by carving up a bit of steak on a wintry Sunday night?
Strange as it seems, I go hunting for the holy in the kitchen.
I watch my husband take the back side of knife to push mushrooms into popping onions, now turning translucent. And just then, I remember the Scriptures he and I read together earlier in the day, side by side in our country church.
The story in John 6 says the crowds were God-hunting, too. They sought Jesus, a day after he turned loaves and fishes into a miracle feast. They found him on the other side of the lake. What were they hunting for? More food, or more God? Why did they draw closer?
Jesus identified himself by a new name: “Bread of Life.”
Six hours after we read Scriptures, I watch my husband put bread in a basket.
“Ten minutes ’til dinner!” His words swell through the house to find our girls, with bellies rumbling.
And what do we all want? More food to fill us? More God? Both? I hope.
I light candles. The farmer-cum-chef brings steaming beef to the table.
Our youngest one volunteers to pray, and we bow heads. She’s six years old, and she plays connect-the-dots with her prayer of thanks. She links the food and the farmer-cook and the Provider, and I see the picture clearer. “Dear God, thank you for the food and drinks. Thank you that Daddy made us steaks. This is my second favorite food ever. Amen.”
I lift a knife, and slice a fissure. I’ve seen the sacramental work of hands, and I’ve opened my eyes a bit wider to pay attention to the sermon that speaks in our kitchen-pulpit.
I think I’m feeling fuller already. And I haven’t even taken a bite.
This post is part of the March BIG QUESTION series “What is Eating You?” Thanks so much to our excellent guest contributors.
Jennifer Dukes Lee is an Iowa farmer’s wife, a mom of two and a writer. She teaches journalism at Dordt College and blogs at www.GettingDownWithJesus.com.
She’s also an old friend, which is one of the best kind.
You can follow her on Twitter @dukeslee.