Not Another PB&J

The lunch bell rings at noon everyday on the construction site. Hammer and nails are exchanged for lunch pales and thermoses.

“Not another Peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” the foreman complains as he opens the wax paper folded neatly around his sandwich.

“I hate peanut butter and jelly.”

He bemoans to whoever will listen.

Day after day, week after week, the bell rings, the crew gathers for lunch, and the foreman opens up his pale to find another peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

“It’s peanut butter and jelly again, dog gun-nit. I’m so tired of PB&J.”

Finally, a pal, exasperated remarks, “My friend, why don’t you just tell your old lady to fix you something else. Tell her you don’t like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and be done with it.”

“What do you mean my old lady?” he says with surprise. “I’m not married. I make my own sandwich every day.”*

There are things in our lives that we have absolutely no control over, but a significant percent of our lived experience is influenced by, consciously or unconsciously, the decisions we make in every breath. If we were to take an honest accounting of our personal relationships (our marriages, interactions with our children, parents, in laws, friends, and co-workers), the quality of our health (mind, body, and spirit), and the degree of our personal faith and soul’s well-being, we would see our unique fingerprints everywhere.

Simply put, we make our own sandwiches. There is a grand design to this glory project called Life, and it operates on free will (with surprises of grace, transcendence, and miracles, of course!). But for most of our lived experience, God has appointed us C.E.O. of our unique destiny. There is nothing easy about being a human being entrusted with the task of trying to figure out and then live into one’s destiny. And that doesn’t even begin to address our fragility, the inherent struggle and unpredictability, and the glaring absence of absolutes or certainties on this side of heaven.

The reality is that we each have even less time here than we imagine to live out this one unique story of ours. There’s no time to wait for change, happiness, deep meaning, and enlightenment to be waiting for us just around the next corner. Because there are no guarantees that we will ever make the turn. So often we fall into what I call the “peanut butter and jelly rut,” where we repeat patterns that rob us of meaningful life. For example, we hold on with a vice grip to past hurts, grudges and antiquated philosophies, we participate in relationships that diminish our spirit, we allow fear to trump hope, and we invest in the vapid and earthly instead of nurturing our soul with eternal fare. Days turn into years and relationships cease to produce fruit, dreams shrivel up, and we become defined by our fears and setbacks instead of our courage and comebacks. And the size of our lives just gets smaller and smaller.

It’s called the “peanut butter and jelly rut” and it’s like a vacuum that literally sucks the life out of any potential for meaning, joy, and enlightenment in the human experience. Usually, it’s our pride or fear that is busy spreading the peanut butter and grape jelly on the white bread.

I’ll be the first to confess that I have been known to make a peanut butter and jelly in my time, knowing there were other choices, and then feeling such guilt and remorse for my cowardice. Whether it’s the way I approach a complicated relationship, handle a personal struggle, or even how I can let weeks go by where I have ignored the needs of my spirit. You can hear the broken record inside my heart, “Not another peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

What if that foreman, or you or me, woke up tomorrow and instead of making the same old peanut butter and jelly sandwich decided to try a new carte du jour? It would require courage and a willingness to step outside our comfort zone. We would have to ignore our pride and welcome vulnerability. We might begin by forgiving that person or event that continues to haunt and rob us of joy. We would acknowledge that we need and deserve more from our marriages, our work place, and our relationships with family and friends and then take ownership of a new reality. We would honor our bodies and our souls as gifts, not to be taken for granted, ignored or mistreated. We would let go of the grudges, the fears, the pride, the old philosophies, and dare to evolve. And enlighten!

And every time we would start to falter we would listen for the rally call of our souls, “Today is not going to be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for me!”

Part of the secret of living a life of weight and gusto and profound meaning is a willingness to adapt, grow, transform, and transcend.

Live in Hope,


*Story adapted from The Way of the Peaceful Warrior


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