Remember the classic fairy tale about Hansel and Gretel? It was written by the Brothers Grimm in 1812, and tells the story of two children who were led into the woods by their wicked stepmother. (Stepmothers get tons of bad press in fairy tales.) The children are abandoned in the forest, and would be hopelessly lost … except that, unbeknownst to their evil “guardian,” these two resourceful kids had scattered a trail of breadcrumbs the entire length of the journey.
We’ll return to this exciting tale after a few brief announcements about breadcrumbs.
Before the advent of pre-packaged, commercially available breadcrumbs, cooks had to make their own. (No, they didn’t collect the crumbs that fell into everybody’s lap while eating cookies in front of the telly.) They baked their own bread, first of all, and once a loaf went stale, they’d grind the hardened bread into crumbs. Some people still make their own breadcrumbs today, but we imagine it’s much easier now, as you can simply throw toasted chunks of bread into a food processor.
Years ago, companies such as Progresso began offering Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs for use in recipes for making meatballs or breading veal or eggplant parmigiana. They also distributed “traditional” or unseasoned breadcrumbs for making meatloaf, breading Southern fried chicken, and the like.
And now, back to Hansel and Gretel. We last left our hapless heroes leaving a trail of breadcrumbs behind themselves as they are led astray in the darkness of the woods! Tsk, tsk. Guess what? Essentially, we’re all like Hansel and Gretel. Life is far from being a fairy tale, but as we journey through it, we leave behind us an unmistakable trail of crumbs, the bits and pieces of broken relationships, crushed dreams, and shattered lives.
Like Hansel and Gretel, many of us are often led astray — not by a wicked stepmother, but rather by the foolish decisions we make. We get entangled in unwholesome relationships, fall into destructive habits, and listen to wrong advice. Our mistakes in life often carry us deep into the woods. We find ourselves lost and alone in a dark forest of our own choosing. But whether or not it was our intention, we’ve left behind us all the broken pieces of our lives. It’s a clear trail of disappointments and disillusionment, of sorrow and bitter tears; a distress signal only God can see and hear — and truly understand. You see, when He walked with us here on earth, our Lord was described as “…Despised and rejected — a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” (Isaiah 53:3 NLT)
In the fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel had to fend for themselves. And ultimately this brother and sister were forced to find their own way back home. Although they do eventually make it, they encounter along the way a horrible witch who tries to make a meal of the two kids. But even in this fairy tale God was there to help. Gretel, overcome by fear, prays a simple prayer: “Dear God, pray help us!” And (Warning: plot spoiler!) HE DID!!
Our loving Heavenly Father follows our trail of breadcrumbs to find us, rescue us and bring us to His “home”; He restores both us and our relationship to Him. Paul writes, “…God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8 NLT)
Even when we don’t acknowledge Him as the Creator of the Universe, even when we neglect to include Him in our lives, even when we know what’s right but do what’s wrong — He nevertheless follows the trail we leave behind. He longs to rescue us from the dark woods.
Are you out of the woods yet? God is still searching for people lost in the forests of life: broken people with nothing to offer Him but the crumbs of their lives. “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3 NLT) Only God, the Master Chef, can gather our breadcrumbs and use them to create something truly delicious!