Sunday, January 10, 2010

The On-shelf Ingredients

I love to cook. It is one of my favorite things to do. You can often find me in the kitchen, rummaging through cupboards, analyzing ingredients, consulting cookbooks and generally making a huge mess that I hope to convince Derek to clean up.

But the end result is usually worth it. I summon every ounce of my creativity when cooking. I build new recipes based on knowledge of what goes together and what might. I use the foundation of past cooking experiences to branch out into new methods and to try new ingredients. And most of the time, although not that time I made Pasta Puttanesca - just ask Derek, his facial expression alone will tell all, but most of the time it all comes out good, or better yet, delicious. Sometimes I use a recipe and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I measure and sometimes I wing it. Sometimes I substitute ingredients and sometimes I am a nazi about what goes into certain dishes. But there is always one constant. I only use what I have. Obviously it makes no sense to do otherwise. Why in the world would I attempt spaghetti and meatballs if I had no meat or pasta in my pantry? Why would I make orange juice if I had no oranges? It would be ridiculous. I have started working on a favorite recipe before only to realize I didn't have all the ingredients. How annoying to have to throw out half-done cake batter, knowing the eggs will never make it for the time it will take to get the kids in the car and go get the missing ingredients.

I wonder if our lives are the same in some ways. We have these ingredients, for whatever reason, but we refuse to cook with them. Or, we try to make something in our lives when we have none of what is required for that thing. We don't like our ingredients. We want different ones. I have often fixated on an ability I didn't have, such as singing - I've always wanted to sing and absolutely cannot - and have devalued an ability that I did have. How many times have I desperately wished to be good at singing when the whole time Whitney Houston wished she could write a blog....kidding!

Some of us are witty, or deep. Derek is incredibly funny, a gift I've often envied. Some of us are slightly melancholy, or really tall, or kind of clumsy. And others are a little odd. These are differences and giftings that should be beautiful, in much the same way that a dish with layered, complex flavors tastes - delicious! But often it seems not to be good enough. We aren't satisfied with the spices we've been handed. The type of veggies we're sporting just aren't good enough. We'd rather have Chicken Parmisan than Beef Curry. We assume an attitude of discontentment and it seems that anything would be better than what we have, anywhere better than here.

I talk to people constantly who are so dissatisfied with who, where and what they are that they can barely think past it. Instead of using the ingredients on-shelf, they believe they were intended to have totally different ones, although this isn't very logical. Or worse yet, they break their own hearts trying to be something that doesn't fit them. If you've ever watched the American Idol auditions then you know exactly what I mean by that. What if you weren't supposed to have different ingredients? Let's pretend the lousy public speaking ability, the boring job, the struggles of talking too fast or being ungifted athletically or the intense shyness are all a part of the stew of you. What if this specific thing you struggle with, this thing that you constantly wish to change is just a part of the process? Maybe the best place to learn contenment is right smack dab in the middle of the country of dissatisfaction. I have to ask myself if I'm chasing after things that aren't really that important and putting the most valuable endeavors of my life on the back burner in order to pursue these empties. What if we should accept the place that we are, understand the moment we live in, with the people that accompany us? Is all this craze our culture has with "abilities" really just a clever distraction to keep me from a life of quality rather than quantity?

I'm not referring to ambition, goals, the detriment of staying in horribly poisonous relationships, or the foolishness of bad choices. I understand the need for these things to be fulfilled, righted, or usually in the case of toxic relationships, fled. But most of us are complaining about at least a couple of perfectly good ingredients, swearing that if only we had a little more of this or less of that we'd be good. A favorite Bible verse of mine, 2 Peter 1:3 states that God, "according as His divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us to glory." For me, it is a huge relief to realize the perfect ingredients for my utter fulfillment are already there, wrapped up with the gift of Redemption. What if the secret to being happy is not so complex as we might think? What if it's as simple as gratitude and willingness to use what already lies in our ability?
As a child of God you're spicy enough, deep enough, tall enough, uncool enough, cool enough. You're enough. Maybe you should stop trying to force oregano into your personality when you clearly have a soul of basil. :)

You may have ended up in a bland season of life, but you are never out of the hands of your Heavenly Father. He intended a life full of taste for you...He had a recipe in mind when He made you and He'd like for you to let Him do the cooking. He intended for your unique self to reach out to the world beyond and mix that interesting set of flavors you have with all the other ones.

You were meant to be fusion food. :)