Thursday, May 8, 2014

On Baking and Breaking Bread With My Church Family

In my family, men know how to cook.  My grandfather is a retired professional chef, my father did all (and I do mean *all*) of the cooking and grocery shopping at home, and somewhere between late college and early seminary years, I finally bit the proverbial-rather-than-epicureal bullet and taught myself how to cook.

And it changed my spiritual life as I knew it.

Of course, there are non-spiritual benefits to it as well--I spend less on groceries when I prepare the meals myself rather than relying solely on Amy's or Newman's Best to do it for me.  It's more nutritious for me than eating out.  And to all you straight dudes/gay women who hang out here: ladies dig someone who knows their way around the kitchen.

But my spiritual life--and my professional life (as it is so often impossible to separate the two)--is largely tied up in the infinite and the intangible.  I read Scriptures.  I pray prayers.  I preach and I teach towards a goal that is only ever fully realized when someone departs this world.  And it doesn't ever end.  There is always another sermon to be written next week, always another pastoral counseling session to schedule, always another mission to vision-cast.

But cooking?  It lets me do something with my hands besides clasp them together, type, or turn pages.  It has a beginning and an end.  It forces me to use parts of my brain that don't always get as heavy a workout.  The work of chopping up vegetables or sauteeing a protein is soothing on my psyche.

And, at least with practice, the end result is not only tangible and finite, but also delicious.

Now, there are limits to this craft for me--for one, I can't bake worth a tinker's damn.  If I'm making you a pie, you can bet your bottom dollar that the crust is store-bought.  I'm also pretty useless if you care too much about presentation.  While it's definitely nice to see a beautifully plated dish at a restaurant, at home I remain firmly planted in the "slop it on" camp of dishing up.  And my palate is still very much a work in progress.

But the biggest limitation for me is one that runs far deeper: my latent insecurities about myself.  I am writing this post about cooking today because this is a second Thursday--the day of every month when my congregants meet at church for a potluck lunch together.

And I only just now started cooking for that meal, as opposed to just picking something up from the grocery store.

I used to tell myself "you're too busy to spend all that time cooking, Eric.  Your time is too valuable," or "You're still bringing something, even if all you did was carry it up front and pay for it."  But really, those were justifications I was using for the simple fear that many a cook--whether professional or amateur--has entertained.

What if they don't like my cooking?

On face, it's a ridiculous question for me to ask.  These are people who have consumed my preaching and my teaching--areas in which I have made myself far more spiritually and emotionally vulnerable--for close to three years now.  But I'm far less insecure about that part of me.  That part of me is mostly strong.

Letting someone into my spiritual exercise of cooking a meal?  That was a lot harder for me to do.

But today, about an hour from now, I will get up from my desk, go over to the church kitchen, and, as I greet and chat up the people arriving, begin chopping up garlic, shallots, onions, and broccolini for a basic risotto for the potluck lunch.  And I can't wait.

Because I am getting to share another part of my spiritual life with my spiritual family.

It is Biblically appropriate that we break bread together.  After all, for many years, until a year or so before she passed away, our congregant Darlyne baked all of our communion bread herself.  For her funeral, her granddaughter baked a loaf according to her recipe for everyone to share in communion together.

And so it is spiritually appropriate when that meal comes from your own labor of love.  This I have learned, and learned gratefully.

Where in your life have you taken unexpected joy in being able to share your spiritual life with others?  Where in your life might you find that sort of joy next?

Yours in Christ,

No comments:

Post a Comment