My mom packed a sack lunch for me daily for nearly my entire school career. (Thirteen years, three sisters, and my father… that’s a lot of lunches.) I believe the only meals I desired for hot lunch were spaghetti and corn dogs—obviously before that whole school lunch health food kick.
My handled box, brown paper bag, or mini-coolers fluctuated with the trends: I know there was a plastic yellow Popples one in there somewhere, and I’m pretty sure My Little Pony must have made the cut at some point. But be they the still-warm August mornings when school still felt like a fresh sheet of looseleaf, or the frigid dawns of February as I glanced through the screen door where the bus would pull in the driveway, I grasped a lunch in my little fingers.
Mom had—has—this remarkable, Rolodex-style memory containing what food each of my three sisters and I, and my father, loved and loathed. She wasn’t indulgent, mind you, but she was wonderfully considerate. The contents varied throughout the year, from Jif with honey to Carl Buddig cold cuts neatly sandwiched and folded in baggies. When condensation kept me from peering through the cafeteria windows onto the gray Midwestern winter, I’d find steaming Campbell’s bean with bacon or chicken noodle in my matching Thermos, oyster crackers separately stowed. Sometimes in spring I found sliced strawberries inside, perhaps, or a plastic fork accompanying the fresh sugared peaches in Tupperware. I can’t imagine how many carrot and celery sticks she cut. Fruit snacks or homemade cookies completed my little meal before I bolted out the door for recess.
Several years later as a young adult, I was pensive and concerned over a new season that lay spread before me, frightening and uncertain. As I chatted with my mom, she tilted her head.
“You know, I packed your lunch for so many years… and even though you didn’t have some sense of entitlement, still: Every morning, you never walked down the stairs, wringing your hands: ‘Oh, I hope my mom packed my lunch! What in the world will I eat today?’
“How much more is God taking care of you after all these years of ‘packing your lunch’ in all these situations?”
And those lunch memories, of course, flew vivid and flavorful to my mind. Each season, I’d had what I needed, even in a carrying vessel that fit my time, my age. It wasn’t always what I’d have ordered—but it was always what I needed. I was taken care of—richly, appropriately; nourished with a side of dessert.
Sometimes, in retrospect, I must admit that I must look a little single-minded. Down the infinitely complex weaving that is the rope of history, God has sustained and provided for the billions of people who’ve walked our planet—not to mention the, what, trillions of creatures? So my mental anguish—how will He take care of this one?—might show just how little I’ve recognized His utterly full, compassionate care; how His perfect nurture is part of His very identity.
I think that’s part of why God commanded the Israelites to set up those rough, abstract stone monuments next to the Jordan they crossed in their sandals and bare feet, children and livestock weaving around them on dry land. In essence, those stones said, Remember. I was here. And I will be there again. And again.
Because, no matter how many sandwiches I’ve inhaled whose crumbs are all that remain, God has always packed my lunch.