A sticky mess

One morning, Bobby wanted waffles. I didn’t. It was early, and I was tired, and I hadn’t had my coffee yet. I didn’t feel like hauling out the waffle maker and snapping in the plates for it and then having to clean up afterwards. But I also didn’t feel like trying to fight it, either, so I plugged in the waffle maker and mixed up the batter.

While my coffee brewed and the waffle slowly cooked, I let myself imagine the end result. Golden brown, steaming, beautiful squares of perfectly-cooked batter. Real butter, glistening, sticky-sweet syrup. Mmm. This sounded pretty good after all.

Until we opened the waffle maker. Oh. Not at all what we’d hoped for. Instead of a nice, neat square with a pretty little pattern, it was a mess. Parts of it stuck. Parts of it didn’t. It peeled in half, some clinging to the top, some stretching between the two plates. Ragged fragments, mutilated pieces of something that was supposed to be so good and simple and yummy. I grabbed a narrow rubber spatula and started the painstaking task of peeling the waffle off the Teflon surface. Little strips, long peely pieces, kind of like when you peel dried Elmer’s glue off an old messy bottle or when your shoulders peel after a sunburn. I finally finished and looked at the pile of scraps in disgust, prepared to throw them out.

Before I could, Bobby poured syrup over the whole heaping mess and carried the plate into the other room to eat. He didn’t care how it looked. It still tasted good to him.

You know, sometimes it gets discouraging serving God. We have this idea of what we should be and what He has in store for us, and we visualize ourselves fulfilling all those dreams and presenting ourselves and our accomplishments to Him, complete, with beauty and glory and righteousness. But in reality, we fail. We forget to pray, we neglect to study, we lower our standards. We mess up, and sometimes we don’t know why. We’re left, then, with something broken, ugly and so much less than it ought to be. In our disgust, we pull away and hide, thinking the effort was wasted, assuming God won’t be interested in us like this. What we have to realize is that, compared with the holy perfection that is our God, nothing we have to offer will ever measure up. All we have is a pile of debris. We need to try again, learn from others, improve through practice — but we don’t have to wait for perfection before we bring it before Him. Offer your efforts to God now, anyhow, no matter how messy or substandard or flawed. He will accept whatever you will give Him if you offer it out of love. He might even pour syrup all over it, and declare that it is good. What is certain is that He will redeem, and with His touch, the end result will be so much better. Delicious and delectable, all you’d imagined right from the start.

A Godly buffet

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke
and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. ~ 2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV)

When my husband and I were in New Orleans, we went to a famous diner for breakfast. Long, low marble counters wrapped around a center area where the waiter took orders, poured coffee and washed dishes. A bunch of people sat down at about the same time as we did. The waiter went from person to person, taking orders, and then stood in the middle, hands behind his back, nothing in front of him, and called out the orders to the chef from memory. He had the lingo down (things like high and dry, drag it through the garden, two dots and a dash). As he shouted out the orders, the chef went to work without hesitation, filling his giant stainless steel grill with handfuls of bacon, sausage, ham and veggies. Then, over the entire surface, he poured egg mixture until the entire grill was one solid mass of steaming food. With his spatula, he cut the eggs into rectangles, folded them up, and flipped them onto plates. He filled plate after plate with a perfectly cooked, exactly right, hot, fresh, custom omelet. The server dealt them out to the customers like a card dealer at a poker table, quick and efficient. And then we ate. Oh, how we ate. Delicious food, and all the better because of how it was prepared.

As I ate, I watched the chef. He was surrounded with stainless steel containers of ingredients, perfectly prepped and waiting to be used. Crispy bacon strips piled high; golden stacks of toast towering, ready for a single swipe of melted butter to be quickly applied with a wide brush; tubs of onions and peppers and mushrooms, clean and chopped. It was all there, ready to go. When the chef knew what was needed, he was able to deliver almost immediately because of the work that had been done before.

Although the food was good and the experience interesting, what I learned that morning was more about Christianity. We need to be prepared. You never know when someone is going to need prayer; when a friend will collapse in front of you, desperate for encouragement or advice; when you’ll be faced with a health diagnosis or a lawsuit or unexpected bills or a broken relationship. This is why we need to be in the Word regularly, to write God’s wisdom on our hearts. This is why we need to pray, so we are already in His presence and don’t have to waste time returning to Him. This is why we should study and prepare and practice, so that all the tools we need, for anything we face, are all right within our reach. Ready to go.