I sure hope and pray you are somewhere warm reading this. This Winter weather descended on us quickly. We had a little warning so we could be prepared. I stopped on my way home from the church to pick up a few items to have available to cook, just in case it became too risky to venture out. I suppose that proved to be a pretty good decision.
As I cooked my lentil soup, I reflected on how much it resembled our lives. Before cooking, I gathered the vegetables for the soup. I chopped up the onion, the carrots, the garlic. I rinsed the lentils themselves, washing away any impurities. I placed the soup pot on the stove and turned on the flame. I coated the bottom of the pan with a generous helping of olive oil. The fire heated the oil until it began to shimmer. I put the prepared vegetables into the hot oil to begin the cooking. As the vegetable began to soften and release their goodness and savoriness, I added the liquid stock and the lentils. A dash of different spices were added as well. All that was in the pot began to mix together, each playing off the other. When cooking lentils a scum can appear and float to the surface. I skimmed this off to discard, and continue to cook until the lentils were tender and done.
I heated some bread in the oven, buttered it and placed it on a plate, along with a steaming bowl of hot savory soup. While I ate my soup and bread, I reflected on my friend Mike’s loss of his beloved partner. I grieved for my friend and his loss. I considered my friend Moussa leaving this week to return to Africa, and how much I will miss him while he’s there. I thought about my friend Margaret and the sweet treat of cranberry squares she had sent me home with on Sunday.
Life really came into focus throughout all the time I spent preparing, cooking and enjoying my meal. In our lives, doesn’t God do a lot to prepare us? Some of it is not very enjoyable, not something we would want to go through, and yet all of it contributes to who we are. The chopping of the vegetables, many times in life we are chopped and diced by our circumstances. For the vegetables, the chopping also serves to begin a process whereby they can release some of their taste and aroma. Some of what we go through serves to open us up too. The oil heated in the soup pot adds to the vegetables releasing their inner savoriness. They taste different once they’ve been sautéed. Do we give off a different taste when we’ve been through a little fire? The liquid and the lentils combine with the heated through vegetables to provide a medium whereby the flavors can mix and mingle to arrive at something delicious beyond what the individual parts could offer. We too, when we mix all of what we go through together, we are a different person. In the mixing, in the cooking, sometimes there are things that rise to the surface that must be skimmed away. Maybe in our combining, some of the refuse in us needs to be skimmed away. Our prejudices, our biases, our unresolved racism we weren’t aware was in us. Maybe those are some things that can come to the surface and be discarded.
Using my dining time to reflect on the loss and sadness of friends, the sweetness of other friends; it occurs to me I have been prepared for the sad times and the sweet times. God has a way of growing us, preparing us, readying us to deal with what life offers. Spending time with Moussa last week made me wish it could always be like that, but that’s not the way life is designed. We are not created for sameness of experience, we are created to have varieties of experience and circumstance. Each plays off the other. We have to have the hard times, the times of chopping and heating, enjoy the savory times when everything comes together in perfect combination. We have to have times of grief and sadness, to know the heights of joy and sweetness.
We serve a mighty, mighty good God. A God who combines all of what we go through to make for us a whole and complete life. If we let God use us, not in the ways we want, the ways we desire, but rather as God sees fit, the end result will be more pleasing and savory than we can imagine.
As we enter the month of February, we are entering into a time set aside for us to remember and reflect on the history of African-Americans. The lives of so many persons in our community have intermingled and combined to make a very savory and delectable offering. I cannot imagine what life would feel like, look like, be like, if we all were the same. A one-ingredient soup would be the blandest of all. We celebrate the contributions of our sisters and brothers who have led us to a new awareness of God’s goodness. We are the handiwork of God’s immense pantry, what we shall be God will decide. We simply must be ready and willing to be a part of God’s recipe.
Your fellow traveler on the Way,