“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
(Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4)
Once upon a time there was a magic father. Whenever he spoke, bread would come out of his mouth. Whenever he opened his mouth to speak, his children would come running to eat whatever he said!
In the morning he would say, “Good morning! I love you! Time to rise and shine!” and the words would turn into hot buttered toast tumbling from his lips, and his children would squeal and and jump out of bed in time to catch it on breakfast plates.
Before they got on the school bus, they would line up before him with their lunch boxes open and he would speak to each one and say special words just for them, things like, “Have a wonderful day at school. Listen to the teacher and wait your turn. Remember I always love you.” And when he spoke, ham and cheese sandwiches would fall into their open lunch boxes.
When they came home again, they would gather around the table and he would ask them all about their day. And whenever he said “What did you learn?” or “I’m so proud of you,” chocolate chip cookies would tumble onto the table with the chocolate chips still gooey inside.
At bedtime he would hold them on the sofa in their fuzzy pajamas and tell bedtime stories, and cinnamon toast would fall from his lips as he spoke.
On Saturday mornings, he would tell lots of stories. They would all clamor and demand their favorites–“Tell us the one about the big storm! Tell us the one about the princess!”–and as he told stories, blueberry pancakes would form, one at a time, until everybody had had as much as he or she could eat.
When the littlest sister had a bad dream in the middle of the night and ran to him crying, he rocked her and told her her own story, and spoke her her own secret blueberry pancake in the middle of the night. By the time she had eaten half of it, she had fallen asleep.
At Sunday dinner, he would go around the table and bless each child, and the blessing would become a piping hot dinner roll on their plate.
Whenever he told them to do chores, something good would come out of his mouth when he spoke. Sometimes it would be a granola bar to eat on the way and give them strength as they worked. Sometimes it would be a slice of pie to save for when they got back and make them hurry to be done. Either way, every word that came out of his mouth, no matter what it was, always turned into something so delicious that the children did not dread him asking them to do chores. Even when he corrected them, it made something good. Even if they were upset and crying at first, it always tasted good when they ate what he said.
And sometimes he would just say “I love you!” and there would be sticky buns or jelly roll doughnuts that were more than they could ever eat, just because he loved them so much. And so there was always enough to share with their friends, or even people who weren’t their friends. The children were always ready to share with anyone who was hungry, because they knew that Daddy could always speak more.
One day, Little Sister was worried about her math test at school. She was so worried that she didn’t pay attention to what Daddy said that morning–in fact, she didn’t even hear him. And at lunch time when she sat down with the others in the school lunch room and opened her lunch box, she found there was nothing there.
“Oh no!” she cried. “I forgot to listen!” She shut her lunch box again and tried to hide it under the table so that no one would see it was empty. She watched the others eating and felt herself starting to cry. She scrunched up her eyes so her tears couldn’t fall down her face and show everybody. Oh, it was SO important to listen to Daddy!
Her Oldest Brother moved over next to her and whispered, “What’s wrong?” Oldest Brother always noticed when the little ones were upset.
“I forgot to listen to Daddy this morning,” she whispered back. “And I’m hungry now.”
“Ah,” said Oldest Brother, and he smiled a knowing smile as if there was a good secret that he knew. But before she could ask him about it, the teacher called her name.
“Your father is here to see you,” said the teacher. “He says you forgot your lunch today.”
Little Sister jumped up and ran out of the room to her father. As she had expected, his hands were empty. She ran into his arms and let all the scrunched up tears out of her eyes, even though she was happy now. “Daddy, Daddy, I’m so sorry!” she cried into his shoulder. “I forgot to listen. I was so worried I forgot to listen.”
It didn’t matter what he said.
Whatever he said was always good.
“I forgive you,” he whispered back at once, and then he pulled his face back from her hair because the words had turned into a grilled cheese sandwich with the cheese still melty. That was her favorite. She caught it and held it and smiled through her tears a shining smile. Sometimes “I forgive you” made the best sandwiches of all.
“What did you say to me this morning that I missed?” she asked.
“I said, ‘Don’t worry about your math test, I know you can do it and you will be fine’,” he said. And the words became pretzel sticks and fell into her hands. She smiled again.
“I definitely didn’t eat that yet!” she said.
“Eat them now,” he answered. “It will make everything better.”
“I thought it was too late,” she murmured, leaning against him and munching on pretzel sticks and grilled cheese as her tears dried.
“I always love you. I always forgive you. It’s never too late,” he said. “It’s never too late to listen again.”
And his promises became gingerbread cookies shaped like hearts, the kind you could hang on the Christmas tree and keep forever. She would eat some, and she would share some with her sisters, and maybe she would keep one on a ribbon so she would never forget. And then she knew that this was the beautiful secret that Oldest Brother had known, and had known that she would find out today.
I always love you.
I always forgive you.
It’s never too late.
It’s never too late to listen again.