One day last week, I threw the ingredients for bread into the mixing bowl of my bread machine and hit the start button for the dough cycle. Two hours later the machine finished its work and I lifted the lid, ready to punch down the risen dough and form it for its second rise.
Proof the yeast, add the flour, mix and knead, knead some more, let it rise, punch it down, shape the dough, let it rise…
It’s a long process, a restful process.
Or a frustrating one.
It all depends on the perspective.
For most of the high school sophomores in the Bread of Life class I taught the first two weeks of January, frustration won over rest.
“Why does the yeast need to proof? And what does that mean?”
“Have I kneaded enough? No? Really? How much longer?”
“It’s still not ready?”
“It has to rise again?”
“When will it be done?”
We made yeast bread six times during the course, and some of them were still asking the same questions on day six.
I ask the same questions of God.
How long? When will this be over? Haven’t I been in this situation long enough? Isn’t there anything I can DO? Just WAIT?
Breadmaking is a complicated process–and a little magical, too. The yeast—captured as a living organism and then dehydrated (“put to sleep” in a sense)—is “waked up” by the warm liquid. It bubbles and pops on the surface, letting you know, “Yes, I’m alive! I will work.” You add flour (and a few other things) and begin to knead. As you shove at the dough, hit it, smack it, even toss it back and forth (if you have a couple people), the protein in the four (called “gluten”) begins to stretch; it becomes elastic and flexible.
Then you let it rest. While it rests, it rises, and you wait, peeking every so often to see it fill up the bowl. Finally (this is a long rise period), you punch it down, knock all the extra air out. It deflates when you do this, like a balloon gently popped. You form it then, into loaves or rolls or whatever shape you fancy, and it rises again, smoothing out the surface, becoming beautiful. Another wait, another rest.
And, finally, it bakes. And it rises a little more with the extreme heat that would have killed the yeast at any time prior in the process.
It’s a lot like spiritual growth. “Magic” is involved: the Living Water brings to life what was dead within us; the Holy Spirit allows us to stretch and grow beyond our natural limits. A Master Baker (like the Potter) knows the complicated process: how long we need (sorry, unintentional play on words) trials and troubles; when waiting periods will help us grow; the right time to knock us down a little, to let failure reveal sin areas in our lives; what shape is the perfect one for us and most useful for the Baker’s grand plan.
I know so little of the recipe and the plan for me. But God says, “I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you… thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome” (Jeremiah 29:11, Amplified version).
I don’t know why it’s so hard to remember that I don’t know what I’m doing, but it seems I have to tell myself again and again to “be the dough,” to let go of the desire to control.
And let God, my Master Baker, work.