It’s been a few days since I blogged, so let me first bring you up to speed with how Sabbath week has ended, before I share a few thoughts on the whole experience.
On Friday, the fridge was starting to look pretty bare – but we still managed cheese sandwiches for lunch. In the evening there was enough left over from Thursday evening to feed the kids – while we were treated by friends to a wonderful meal in a lovely Italian restaurant. I won’t go into it in too much depth here as it was on my Bucket List, so you’ll hear about it soon – but we enjoyed it very much. When we’d planned the date I didn’t realise it was going to be Sabbath week – just another way God has provided for us this week. (And we were able to leave a couple of meals for our kind babysitters.)
On Saturday, we wanted to be generous. We still had things to use up from the freezer, as well as some other bits and bobs which we figured could make a good meal. Al’s in his element when using up random foodstuffs, so I gave him the opportunity to play ‘Ready Steady Cook’, and we invited four friends to come share our ‘smorgasbord’ (the ‘smorgiest bord I’ve ever seen’, said one of them). The appetizer (yes! there was an appetizer!) was homemade taramasalata with pitta bread. This was followed by pork and cider stew (from the freezer); chicken, bacon and potato stew (freezer); onion tart and a tasty concoction of chicken thighs, tinned tomatoes, sour cream, olives, mushrooms and capers. Pudding was a frozen Bailey’s cheesecake, made prior to Sabbath week.
Today we had our roast beef (one of only two items I’d allowed myself to buy in advance), roast potatoes, no Yorkshires, and a slightly bizarre but none-the-less tasty mix of roasted squash, carrots and onions. For pudding, I used up the last bit of a packet of pudding rice, made it with part coconut milk, and served it with caramelised pineapple (a gift from a friend). Two friends joined us for this Sabbath feast.
So now what? Does anything change regarding our cooking or shopping habits? Was Sabbath week a success? Was it right to accept gifts of food?
A wise friend, after reading Wednesday’s blog post, wrote this to me: “I reckon in the sabbath year there would have been lots of sharing to ensure everyone could celebrate God’s love and goodness; now you are living that out as the recipients. Be Glad. Know that God wants to bless you through his people…Rather than sabotage these gifts are a sacramental act in their significance. There will be many more opportunities…for you to share God’s love and goodness with [others] during their sabbaths or periods of need.”
Some have suggested that it would have been more interesting to blog after Sabbath week, to see how God provided, rather than blog during the week, when people would give us food because they knew what we were doing. But this is kind of missing the point. Our intention in having a Sabbath week was not to try surviving on less. That would be confusing our week with the sort of experiment Jen Hatmaker undertook in her book Seven, or the challenge that several friends have got involved with recently to live off £1 a day. Surviving on less may have been an expected outcome but it was not the point. If you refer back to my original post, our intentions were:
* to exercise more trust in God
* to give ourselves a rest (Sabbath) from shopping for food
* to give our bank balance a rest (Sabbath) and potentially release money for other uses
* to reduce unnecessary food waste
I’ll let you into a secret. Even if we’d been given no food by others, we were never going to starve during Sabbath week. In some ways, I was hoping that Al and I would be living off plain rice by the end of the week, just to have a great story for the blog. But, deep down, I knew that we’d have plenty of variety for the whole week – not because we’d planned it that way (we deliberately didn’t stock up for the week) but because we’re typical Western consumers who store up treasures on earth, and that includes storing up ridiculous amounts of food in our cupboards. I expected that this final blog post would tell of how we are indulgent over-consumers, and how ashamed this makes me feel. I expected to write about deep guilt, leading to deep repentance, over how little I consider others in the world who have far less. I expected to abandon my persistent drive to find new recipes, new ingredients, new cuisines. I expected to renounce my supposed food ‘needs’ (“I must have my 5-a-day”, “I must eat more fish”, “I must eat less red meat”) as if they were a right shared by everyone, and not simply a luxury afforded by a few.
I expected to do all these things – and, in a way, I have. Or, rather, I am doing – for none of these changes can happen overnight.
But actually what this week really taught me, what I really wanted to share with you, was about God’s economy. At the start of the week, we had two planned-in-advance occasions for being hospitable: Tuesday night and Sunday lunchtime. Was I going to invite anyone else? Are you kidding? Without a supermarket trip? No – I was selfishly going to keep the food we did have to ourselves.
God had a better plan. He always does. His plan was that we would share what we had with others – rather than close our door on guests for the week. My shame is that He had to make the first move – giving us food via friends – in order to prompt us into giving to others.
But then again, He’s good at making the first move: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
God’s economy: whatever we have – give it away. Next Sabbath week will be different: I’ll enter it with more thoughts of hospitality and sharing – then we’ll see what God does!
Next Sabbath week for us will be 17th-23rd June. Do join us! Feel free to create your own guidelines which work for you and your family. I may or may not blog about it, so don’t rely on a reminder: get the dates in your diary!