Finding the Eternal in the Temporal

After waking my son for early morning seminary, I sit in front of my computer in the kitchen. While he’s getting dressed, I begin my morning ritual by checking various social media accounts and reading headlines and blog titles on a few bookmarked pages.   The keys are sticking while I type.   I take a big breath and exhale.  Tipping the keyboard upside down, I shake loose the crumbs hidden in the catacombs of plastic and wire.   I failed to see the plastic cup at my elbow, so now I’ve spilled water on the desk.

As I clean up the food and water from my computer station, I recall the images from the gospel of John.  “I am the living bread.” “I am the living water.”  Everyday objects.  On the one hand, these objects sustain life. On the other hand, they are temporal and subject to decay.

Bread eaten is destroyed and then transformed into flesh. Uneaten bread dries out, crumbles, molds, decays.  Christ comments in John Chapter 6 how even manna decayed. And it was bread from heaven.   He cautioned those from the multitude who followed him to Capernaum not to seek him for the loaves and fishes served on the hillside. Instead, they should seek – we should seek – the living bread.

Centuries later, I encounter crumbs stuck in the toaster in my kitchen, uneaten crusts from sandwiches on the floor of my van, crackers served with a bowl of chili–now crushed in their packaging at the bottom of my purse, croutons falling off my salad and onto the trays at restaurants, fresh bread calling to me from the store shelves.  Constant invitations to see the divine in the mundane.  On Sunday the “staff of life” transcends the mortal when sanctified for the purpose of remembering baptism covenants.

Something so common, so easily consumed, so easily decayed is a reminder of immortality.  I remember the body of Christ as symbolized by the eating of bread so that my temporal bread-fed body might be transformed into something beyond the mundane.

Likewise with water.

Before Christ uttered “I am the living bread” and even before Moses instructed the Children of Israel to gather up the heavenly manna, the early Patriarchs were instructed to transform their daily food sources of livestock and grain into holy objects.

Sheep, bulls, doves, grain – all handled in ritualistic ways that transformed them from the objects meant for food, for clothing, for soaps and for other menial uses.  These bloody, dirty, smelly, consuming and consumable objects became something clean, something pure, something transformed into a counterargument to mortality:  As followers of Jehovah, we will not die. We will not be base. We will not be mute.  We will not be just one of a herd. We will not be chaff. We will not be the ash accumulating in our fire pits.

Instead, we will be chosen, regarded, named, held up before the throne of God, frozen in time for a moment, taken to a place that differs from the fields, the fold, the fires, the feasts. And we will be exalted – made into something that transcends the strife and the temporal nature of our day-to-day life. We will endure.

I hear my son come down the hall and towards the kitchen. I have a few more minutes to myself while he eats a small breakfast.  Maybe my social media accounts can wait. Do I have time to read the prompts for my upcoming Sunday school lesson?

The detritus removed from my work space, I gaze into the screen and imagine the future. A thousand years from now, will there be holy scriptures describing the proper way to enter the sanctuary of the glowing terminal? Will we have instructions on how to make clean and pure our actions with the otherwise menial tasks conducted at the keyboard?  Will we have commandments asking us to offer our time and talents using electronic devices? Can we stand in holy places while sitting in front of a computer, a tablet, a smart phone?

As the cursor blinks before me, I see an invitation to make myself holy before the throne of God, using the mundane objects of my daily life.   An invitation to have intention, to stand apart from the decay and the mutability that usually flickers before me from the screen. Will my thoughts and actions be sanctified by the Holy Spirit, making my computer time more than a mindless, mundane task?

If the Son of God has been described as the Good Shepherd, The Living Waters and the Living Bread, will He be described in the future through metaphors for virtual memory, wireless connectivity, expansive data bases, comprehensive searches?  Can the computer function as an altar, a pulpit, a holy book, a prayer shawl? Can we receive messages through the computer from a divine witness, a heavenly choir, a holy messenger? Will prayers be described as uploading requests, and will we wait for God to download revelation?

As a Sunday school teacher of teens, I use my computer to imagine Patriarchs, Children of Israel, and Christ’s disciples in prior centuries so that the teens and I can follow in their footsteps. Their rituals, their acts of devotion, their metaphors, and their menial tasks might seem foreign to us.  But through a simple search for “sanctification,” I see the search results gathering us together on one computer screen. We are united not only in the pixels that emanate from my screen but more significantly in our yearning to transform the temporal of our various settings into the eternal that transcends all time and place.

What metaphors or symbols for the divine resonate with you? 

About Karen

(Blog Team) After living in UT, HI, CA, DC, VA, WI, & WV, Karen now lives in KS with her family. During the week, she blogs about aging, teaches as an adjunct for WSU's Aging Studies program, and socializes with older adults. On the weekend, she enjoys connecting with the sisters in her ward because they possess divine gifts and are full of good works.

5 thoughts on “Finding the Eternal in the Temporal

  1. I think about the symbolism of eating and drinking symbols of Christ. I think about those water molecules and sugar molecules in the bread becoming incorporated into our cells, using them for energy, and becoming part of us on a chemical level. To me, as a scientist, there’s something very profound in symbolically taking Christ and incorporating Him into our physiology. This was lovely, Karen!

  2. Thanks, Emily and Andrea for reading/commenting. Cool chemistry perspectives on the sacrament as symbols and as a chemical process. I enjoy hearing what people from different vocations have to say about faith based on their expertise.

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