May 8, 2019

The Tortilla That Kept on Giving

Outside, the brilliant sunshine, azure water, and perfect temperature begged for me to come and play. I could not wait to feel the warm, soft sand under my bare feet. The car was hurriedly unloaded, the suitcases quickly unpacked, and the sunscreen applied. It was the first day of an extended beach trip to the Emerald Coast, a gift for my sixtieth birthday. This was my happy place, and the stellar weather gave me confidence that the next few weeks would be equally as beautiful and wonderful.

I was wrong. The sun went on vacation; grey clouds, strong winds, and cold air moved in. I was condo bound for days, upon days, upon days.

How ironic; the stormy weather echoed the past decade, the cloudiest season of my life. Those long and turbulent years brought death of loved ones, sickness, surgeries, marital discord, depression, multiple relocations, financial ruin, estranged relationships, caregiving for a demented mother, and even a crisis of faith.

Stacks of journals record my deep rumblings with God. I wanted Him to fix things. He wanted to fix me.

My heart was ugly and needed a lot of work; things did not go down easy. I entered many wrestling matches with God. He lovingly refused to back down. The difficulties served to refine and reshape me. There were times when the clouds broke apart and sunlight poured through in the form of forgiveness, reconciliation, new perspectives, and spiritual awakenings. During that season, God revealed His deep love for me, and I came to trust in the goodness of His heart.

But as I sat in the condo, waiting for the sun to emerge, I found myself wishing for a different story. My soul feels tired. Despite the beauty, growth, and victory from the trials, I still find myself wishing for a better decade ahead. The desire for temporal pleasure tugs my heart away from the eternal. It threatens like a dangerous undertow.

My conversation with God went something like this, “I’m weary of the grey skies of life. I want sustained periods of sunshine. Frankly, I feel a bit entitled to them. But all I know for sure is that you will not stop working on me. You will not stop refining me. Suffering and pain seem to be your favorite tools. Your promises of blessing and relief have no timestamp on them, no calendar date I can point to and say, ‘it will be over here.’

Somebody call the “wambulence,” right?

God was not surprised by my fickleness or bratty demand for clear skies. In my rumbling He sweetly reminded me of a sometimes-forgotten Bible story. *

It goes like this ...

Once upon a time, in the land of Zarephath, there lived a widow and her son. A great famine had swept across the land, and they now stood on the brink of death.

“Well, this is it.” the widow sighed, as she slowly gathered sticks to make a fire. “This will be the last meal we will ever eat together.” She cast a glance at her boy who was pushing rocks around in the dusty earth; tears stung her eyes. The famine had gone on for days on end. She was down to a handful of flour and a drop of oil; she could not save him. They would eat one last tortilla, then they would curl up and die. In despair, she wondered, What does it feel like to starve to death? How long does it take? How can I possibly watch my son go lifeless and limp? She thought her heart would break in two.

A man’s deep voice startled her out of her private lament. “Ma’am, my name is Elijah, and I am a man of God. I have come an exceedingly long way to see you. Would you give me something to eat?”

She stared at him in disbelief. She had heard stories of the prophets, but had never met one face to face. “Sir, all I’ve got is a measly handful of flour and a teensy drop of oil, it’s just enough for our final meal.”

Inwardly she brooded. My husband’s gone and I’m left to fend for myself. This famine has gone forever. And now a supposed “man of God’ shows up at my doorstep wanting the only morsel I have left?! Seriously? Why does this Israelite come to me, a Gentile? Why not let his "one true God" save him?

“Ma’am,” he assured her, “God told me to come to you specifically.”  He said to me, “Get up and go to the widow of Zarephath and let her feed you. Tell her that her flour and oil will not run out. Tell her that I will send the rain once again, but until then, she will have enough to eat every day.”

The widow weighed his words. Can this man be trusted? Do his words really come from God? Am I being punked? Well, no matter, we are going to die anyway, so why not give him the last tortilla? If he truly is a man of God, I don't want his death on my conscience. I have enough guilt already.

“Okay,” she shrugged and proceeded to fire up the skillet. She dumped the last bit of flour into mixing bowl and stirred in the last drop of oil, all the while keeping her eyes on the flour jar. It was empty.

No. Wait. It wasn’t empty! Whaaaat? There was flour in it. When did that happen? When she blinked? She checked the oil jug. Holy cow! There was a little oil in it, too. Was this really happening?

It was!

This flour and oil phenomenon occurred every single time she prepared a meal. Every. Single. Day. No matter how much they used, there was always enough, just as God promised. The widow witnessed a miracle every day for days on end. She had a front row seat to divine love, power, and provision! Day, after day, after day. Wow!

Slowly her heart began to warm up to the idea of God.

Perhaps she journaled the story and kept records . . .

Day 1: Sooooo, today a man named Elijah showed up claiming to be a prophet of the Jewish God, Yahweh. He said Yahweh sent him to me. I used the last bit of flour and oil to feed him thinking our life was over. But more flour and oil magically appeared. We went to bed with full stomachs. What is happening?

Day 6: It happens every time I cook! But even though I stare at the jar, I can never see the flour reappear. I set it on the counter empty and then it instantly has flour in it again. This is crazy!

Day 14: Today I’m noticing that my boy has more energy, he’s put on a few pounds. He looks healthy. Is this really God?

Day 30: I keep thinking about what Elijah told me – about how God sent him directly to me. Of all people, why me? Does God really care about me?

Day 43: The tortilla just keeps on giving. LOL.

Day 67: Elijah says that one of God’s names is ‘Jehovah-Jireh’ which means ‘my provider.’ Maybe there is something to this Jewish God.

Day 84: Tortillas are bland and boring. Wish the rain would come. Sure would love some fruit and vegetables. I heard that the Israelites ate manna from God for 40 years; hope this famine doesn’t last that long!

Day X: Elijah left today on a mission to King Ahab. He said the rain will come very soon. We will miss him.

Day X: It's raining!!!!!

And that’s the story of the widow of Zarephath. Elijah did many more miracles which are recorded in the books of the Kings. The widow and her son shared their story everywhere they went.

As I sat in the condo, pining for sunnier days, God reminded me of that story and whispered, I am the God who sees you and hears your cries. No matter what is going on around you, you will always have enough. It is okay to long for more. You have my promise; sunnier days are ahead. But while you wait, you will always have enough. Your jar will never go empty. Every morning new grace and mercy abound for you. Not just for you, but enough to share with others.

Just like the tortilla that kept on giving, there is always enough. Enough for me. Enough for you. Enough for others. Enough for today, and enough for tomorrow. That is God’s promise to us today.

And at the triumphant end of our story, we know for sure that the Son will shine. Every. Single. Day.

Sunrise on the Emerald Coast
Sunrise on the Emerald Coast

3 comments on “The Tortilla That Kept on Giving”

  1. Such a delightful way to express God’s goodness. He keeps giving and giving and giving— a faithful God who’s not disturbed in the least when we question him. In fact, he welcomes it so he can display his goodness over and over again. Here’s to many more years enjoying the tortillas he provides. Dine

  2. Awww, hey there old friend. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. You know so well how to live on the handful of flour and oil each day. I pray for a season of abundance ahead for your tired, spent soul.

  3. Reminds me of "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread."
    Psalm 37:25

    You paint a beautiful picture of ABBA's loving provision.

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