A Bible study I’m involved in recently brought about the discussion of sourdough bread. Yup. Bread—and how we can liken it to our faith.
I enjoy baking. I like a challenge and will rise up to meet nearly every one that is presented before me. Several years ago, I set out to master sourdough bread. Sourdough is unique in that it uses natural yeasts formed in a fermented starter. The more sour the starter, the more flavourful the bread. The bread isn’t the tricky part, the starter is.
Some people are fortunate enough to have inherited or otherwise obtained an old starter. Some have been going for a century or more. To someone who has no understanding of the process, this can be a horrifying idea. So let’s start at the beginning.
To start a sourdough starter you need flour and water. That’s it. The portions vary depending on who writes the recipe. I’m an equal parts kind of person. Mix up some flour and water and let it fester in a warm place for 12-24 hours. After a day, remove some of the starter and feed the remaining portion more flour and water. Repeat this process for a week. Yep, you let it fester for a week. After a week, it should be all bubbly and smell a bit like beer. Congratulations, you now have an active sourdough starter and can keep using it and feeding it and keeping it active for as long as you want.
But what if you don’t want to keep making bread several times a week? You can put your starter to sleep. Me, I have two containers in my fridge of starter I began several years ago. But here’s the kicker, I can’t just pull it out and use it. It’s dormant. The alcohol content has separated and formed a preservative layer on the top. In order to use it again, I have to stir it up, remove some and start the feeding process over again until I get that rich, bubbly starter back. It can take a week or more.
If you’ve been reading this through a spiritual filter, you may now be seeing parallels between a sourdough starter and your spiritual life. When you first come to Christ, it’s like someone gave you some active starter. It’s bubbly and active. As long as you keep feeding your spirit, it will stay active and useful. But as soon as you stop feeding it, things start to separate. Your spirit isn’t as active. If you haven’t let your relationship with God sit for too long, you can feed it and get it to work right away. But if you’ve left it sitting for too long, it might need more than a little help and some extra time. It will need to be stirred up. Some things might have to be removed and the active ingredients added back in. The process may need to be repeated several times before you’re good to go again.
If you’re active and ready to be used, that’s fantastic. If you’ve been sitting for a little while, take the time to feed your spirit and get yourself activated again. If you’ve been sitting for a long time and have that separate layer on the top, take the time to stir yourself up.
I see the fermentation as the Holy Spirit. In its dormant state, the layer of alcohol hovers over the mixture, protecting it from going bad. Yet it is also the component that adds flavour and leavening when it’s time to make the bread.
The end of Luke 20 speaks of how God never views us as dead. As soon as our spirits become alive in Him, we are ever alive. Whether we live our lives as active starter ready to be used at any moment or have allowed ourselves to become dormant, the Spirit is still there waiting to be stirred and fed and reactivated in our lives.
Daily Bible reading: 2 Samuel 15-16, Luke 20:27-47