I was a little kid once…my parents would motivate me to eat by letting me know that I won’t grow unless I eat. Despite the assumed correlation between eating and growing, I haven’t grown an inch taller since I was 12. My mom thinks it might have something to do with my experiment with vegetarianism…I think it mostly has to do with genetics. I was a quick study in maturity, I reached my maximum height potential earlier than most of my school mates. At the age of 12 and even 13 I was taller than a lot of my peers, by age 15 I was having to look up a lot more often to make eye contact.
For the past few days I’ve been watching a Netflix docu-series, Chef’s Table. When a series begins with a cheese recipe that becomes an act of social justice I’m intrigued enough to check out every episode. I’ve enjoyed watching so many beautiful dishes being created from dreams, sweat, and tears. I was watching an episode yesterday when I decided that I was hungry. Which is something that happens when you consume food with your eyes…or if it is just time to eat.
I went to the refrigerator knowing the dish that I was about to create was familiar…simple…and not even worthy of being called a dish based on the standards that I was just watching, but nonetheless, a feast to many in the world. I was going to make a sandwich. I love sandwiches, my go to recipe is 3 ingredients–bread, turkey, and miracle whip. It was this combo that ended my vegetarianism in secret months before I indulged publically. I knew that I didn’t really desire to be a vegetarian forever…I struggled to even articulate to curious minds why I had even made the decision to become vegetarian. Let’s say that I was acutely aware of the fact that an 8th grader making life decisions based on Paul McCartney’s diet was one weird manifestation of my youthful propensity for idolatry. It was my ego that kept me a practicing vegetarian for so many years. Diet choices are easier to let go when you no longer have a taste for them…especially if those choices are rooted in immature whims. At some point, I decided I’d rather be disliked for who I actually was than who I was pretending to be. Somehow, in a little way, eating a turkey sandwich reminds me of who I am not.
As I gathered items for my sandwich from the fridge, I stopped and stared. I searched the shelves thoroughly with my eyes…I glanced to the counter. I could not find the miracle whip. Frustrated, I wonder, how will my sandwich be a sandwich without the tangy zip of miracle whip? (Yes, I’m that person.) I was sure that the miracle whip should be there…because I had just bought it. I looked at the spicy brown mustard with disdain, it might as well be called brown hellfire sauce. This is not how I wanted things to be. I’m certainly not choosing the bottle-of-hell brown stuff because it will corrupt the bread and the turkey…long after the food is gone, my mouth will still taste of brown stuff. Still looking around expectantly, I felt like the miracle whip had just vanished…
Then I looked down into my hands. There hidden behind the 2-liter bottle of soda was the miracle whip. I had been holding the miracle whip the whole time. It was literally in my hand. I could blame the fact that I didn’t have my glasses on…
I’ll choose to say though that I didn’t see the miracle whip in my hands because sometimes it is hard to see what is right in front of us. Even if it is the work of our own hands, we often fail to see the miracle because we look and spend time in the wrong places. I’ll take it a step further…We are very good at living comfortable lives lacking in vulnerability, intimacy, and passion. We wonder why we don’t feel the tangy zip of the miracle.
I say “we” because it sure is easier than saying me. But I’ll go ahead and own this…
I’ve lived a comfortable life, lacking in vulnerability, intimacy, and passion. I’ve walked through the valley of brown stuff, but I know what the miracle tastes like…so I’m not settling.
In A Glorious Dark, A.J. Swoboda asks, “What if God’s will is for us to do all the freaking out we’re doing trying to find God’s will? Searching out God’s will is God’s will for my life, it’s a ceaseless pilgrimage we all must make.” Swoboda concludes that we should wrestle in finding God’s will. I’m convinced that many of us, including myself, end up on a ceaseless pilgrimage to make things easier or more comfortable, looking forward, or back to a time that never has or never should exist.
This week my Father reminded me, that I won’t grow unless I eat. If you want the tangy zip you have to be steadfast as you look through the valleys of brown stuff…if you need some growth ingredients, start here: obey, love, forgive, trust, pray, listen, trust.
Swoboda also said, “One of the most dangerously subtle assumptions a Christian can make about their life is that faith exists to clear disappointment from our schedules.” Disappointment and wrestling is all a part of the pilgrimage. These days don’t be surprised if I’m bowing down a lot more often to make contact. I’m still growing.
The following is a quote from Chef’s Table, Episode 3, available on Netflix–
“My life has been a path at the edge of uncertainty…
today I think we, educate kids to be settled in the comfortable chair…
you have your job…you have your little car…you have a place to sleep…and the dreams are dead.
You don’t grow on a secure path.
all of us should conquer something in life
and needs a lot of work
and it needs a lot of risk.
In order to grow to improve you have to be there at the edge of uncertainty.” -Francis Mallmann
My cousin posted on Facebook this week, “What would you do if you were not afraid?”
I would like to add these questions to the mix–
How should you live, if you have faith? Who would you forgive, if you had love? Who would you love, if you had trust? Where would you walk, if you obeyed? What would you hear, if you listened? How would you worship, if it were in truth? What would you pray, if you dared to dream?