Sure there was easy stuff; ramen, macaroni and cheese, anything that could be microwaved. I was very adept at pushing that microwave on button. But it gets kind of old eating the same things over and over. You can only eat so many hot pockets. I started reading recipes, buying food magazines, reading cook books like they were my favorite novel. I knew that I was only going to go so far in my culinary expertise if I didn't take the time and effort to learn to cook. And by the way, just that word culinary should give you a clue, it means able to be consumed. One of the first meals I tried to prepare was a chicken pasta salad. I was so excited to make it, cook the chicken, get the pasta water boiling, chop the vegetables and garlic. One clove of garlic. That's an easy one. Prepared that meal and waited for Jim to come home from work. First thing when he walks in, he is sniffing the air. He opens the fridge door to get some koolade and smells again. What did you make with garlic he asks? I said chicken pasta salad! He asks how much garlic did I use. One clove. Honey, what's a clove? You know, it that fist sized bunch of pieces of garlic. Oh, did I not have a clue or what? It was edible, but the koolade and everything else in the fridge reeked of garlic!
So as I said I studied, I practiced (my poor family!), I learned to read recipes and then to write my own. I went from microwave maven to epicurean expert. I learned that there are no microwave masterpieces. That something that tastes delicious, something that truly satisfies and doesn't just quell hunger pangs takes time and dedication and love. No instant plat du jour, no quick cooking culinary showpiece. Time, effort, dedication, and sometimes making a mess; those are the ingredients to a dinner that delights, to a meal that moves us.
We live in a microwave society. We want everything quick and easy. We want instant gratification, we want immediate results. No muss, no fuss, throw that sucker in the microwave and get into my belly. Let me tell you, you can only live on food like that for so long. That's called subsistence, enough for survival. I'm sorry, I want to not only survive, I want to live, to thrive. I want to experience all that God has to offer me; all of it. The good, the painful, the excitement, the fear. We hit a bump in the road and we bail. We feel some turbulence and we exit the plane. We go through life leaving a massive trail of debris in our wake, not even taking into consideration the damage we cause. Not even thinking of the baggage we carry with us. When you watch the Olympics and see the distance runners, you don't see them wearing sweatpants and hiking shoes and carrying the luggage they flew in with. No, they run with no encumbrances. They run wearing the lightest clothes, the lightest shoes. They run with their hands open and their hearts set on gold. Even the bible talks of our running that race, to finish for the gold. Bronze, silver or gold. Not every athlete gets a 'you attended' medal, unlike what our youth are taught today. You don't just show up and get the prize. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training," 1 Corinthians 9:24, 25.
We are in this life by His grace. We are to live a life that shows His grace to others. We are to be examples of His love, His forbearance, His mercy. Instead we so often take the easy way out (in our minds) and move on to the next thing. We have no endurance. We cannot run with bags of garbage in our hands. We cannot sprint with cement blocks attached to our feet. But this is how we so often live. Nope, this relationship takes too much work, I'm out of here. Oh this school work is too hard, forget it. This job wants me to show up on time and work?! We want microwave results, well we will get microwave flavor, microwave nutrition, a true microwave masterpiece.
I have learned to cook by first following the great recipes. I needed those guidelines to teach me how to measure, how to use different cooking methods, how to mix flavors and use spices. I learned in the same respect that the bible is my recipe book for life. It has taught me how to live. How to hear the voice of God. How to respond to others in a Christ-like manner. How to adjust my attitude so that the things that life throws at me don't throw me. I have learned that when I commit to a recipe I see it through. Sometimes it tastes great, sometimes it's a disaster; but it teaches me what to do differently the next time, same ingredients, different outcome.
Twenty something years ago when my marriage fell apart I could have just said, well that recipe sucked. Out with the old, in with the new. But that is not what God had in mind. He wanted me to learn that the slow simmer brings out better flavor than a quick blast in the microwave. He wanted me to learn new lessons, how to take the ingredients He gave me and use them in a correct manner. Not to throw everything out, but to reread that recipe and start over with Him at the center of it all. I could have said, no this is too hard. I could have said, no my husband and my children are not worth all the effort. I could have left a trail of debris behind me and walked away. But by His grace and His lovingkindness, and yes, blood, sweat and tears we got through it. He healed our marriage. He healed our hearts. He took flawed people and turned them into something beautiful. All because we did not give up. And I thank God that we didn't. Over the years He has used us to counsel many broken people; to encourage them to not give up, to not throw it all away. To teach them that their relationship is worth fighting for. That they are not just doing this for themselves, but for their children and their children's children. That just like a recipe that takes time and patience, just like that race that takes endurance and training, in the end it is worth all the effort. Because it is not just all about us. Others are watching our every move. Hebrews 12:1-2a says this, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." That cloud of witnesses represents our Christian forefathers who have gone before us, but we also are surrounded by others who are watching us, watching to see if we live the way we talk. Watching to see our faith played out in our daily lives. We run not only for ourselves but for all those around us. We run a relay race, getting ready to pass that baton on to others.
I want to live this life as a marathon to encourage others, not as a quick sprint to satisfy myself. I want to finish the race strong, to keep the faith. To not live my life for my own benefit, but as Acts 20:24 says, that "my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace."
So shall we live a microwave existence or shall we strive for culinary excellence? Quick and easy, allay your hunger with cardboard grade meals or sit down to a feast that took time and effort but delights every sense? We run for the prize...is that prize a degree in nuke it, zap it 101? No, give me the perseverance to win the Michelin star, the James Beard award. To follow His recipe for my life, to sweat in the heat of the kitchen of adversity, to study to show myself approved and then to taste results of all that hard work; to taste and see that the Lord is good and to share that extravagant feast with others.