October Guest Author Erin Healy: Why Bread?
In a recent interview about my new novel, The Baker’s Wife, the host asked me, “Why a bakery? Why would a pastor dismissed from his pulpit choose to become a baker?”
There is a practical answer to this question, and a spiritual one. Geoff and Audrey, a couple in ministry, bake bread together as a hobby. In a world where ministry can consume a couple and exhaust a marriage, these two keep their bonds strong by working side-by-side together in a tiny kitchen, creating something that is both beautiful and life giving. So when their world comes undone and they find themselves looking for a safe place to heal, it made sense to me that they would find that salve in the arena where they have known the greatest calm.
But the better answer, at least in my mind, is that feeding people with bread strikes me as the perfect allegory for any true ministry. What pastor doesn’t feed his people “bread”? (An imposter, perhaps.) In The Baker’s Wife, Geoff and Audrey’s bakery is as much a church as any building that serves God’s children.
When Jesus walked the earth, he was highly concerned with the physical state of the people he met. He often took care of their bodily needs before he attended to their spiritual ones. He healed them before urging them to give up sinning. He expressed concern about whether they had enough to eat. The Bible describes Jesus as our “bread of life”—our most fundamental staple for day-to-day living, the only real spiritual sustenance we need.
Sometimes I wonder if this symbolic nature of bread accounts for my own nearly insatiable love of the stuff. Okay, so maybe I’ve got some kind of serotonin issue that would explain the constant cravings for the crackly crusts and the cushiony crumb of a great loaf. But the deepest part of me believes there is also something more at work in my heart, and not only in my stomach or my brain.
The Baker’s Wife is part mystery and part miracle. It’s about a police officer who believes God is an angry judge, a baker who believes God is the bread of life, and the woman thrust into the middle of their conflict. It’s about people who bake bread, who eat bread, who want bread, who refuse bread, and who throw their bread in the trash—in a manner of speaking. All my novels are symbolic, and I found bread to be a universal symbol too delicious for me pass up.
I tried a low-carb, bread-free diet once, and I must confess: I have no interest in ever going back to it.