Monday, January 29, 2018

When I Couldn't Tell If I'd Achieved My Goal or Not



Friends arrive today from abroad for an extended stay. I decided to prepare a welcome meal for tomorrow. The goal was to cook food that seemed familiar, a little touch of home. The problem, of course, was that I didn't know how to cook the way they cook "back home." I don't have their knack with spices or the exact flavor combinations in my skill set.

Nevertheless, I assumed a Google search would be sufficient, and plunged ahead.

Yesterday, I prepped two eggplants to make baba gahnoush, a smooth, creamy eggplant dip. I'd eaten this dish numerous times, but I'd never prepared it before. No problem, I thought. I bought two eggplants and some tahini sauce and downloaded a recipe.

Just to be sure of my goal, I bought a small container of baba gahnoush from the grocery. It tasted like bad Ranch dressing. Mislabeled, I decided, discarded it, and went to work.

I sliced the eggplants, put them cut-side down in my cast iron skillet, and stuck them under the broiler until the skin bubbled up and started to turn black. As the recipe said, I removed them from the skillet and set them aside to cool. 

Perfect progress, it seemed, as I peeled the skin off. That's when things started to get interesting. The recipe clearly stated that the eggplant should be mashed with a fork, which seemed crazy because it was so stringy. 

I put it in the bowl of my stand mixer, instead. I'm not saying the stand mixer was the problem, just that it's the place my path and the recipe parted ways. First, my recipe called for one eggplant. I used two, so I doubled all the ingredients, but forgot the salt, mainly because I'm on a low-salt diet. I wasn't sure what to do with the eggplant seeds, so I left them. I mixed the glob of goo with the paddle until it was mostly smooth. 

It was a gray mess, which made me think of gray matter in the brain, and pretty much grossed me out. I tasted it with trepidation, the thought of eating brain still in my head. It tasted terrible. That's when I started improvising. 

I added some salt, extra cumin, more lemon juice. Nothing helped. I gathered a variety of recipes and pulled from all of them. One listed red pepper in the ingredients, so I gave the cayenne a hearty shake. 

I wasn't sure about the texture. I couldn't decide what taste I needed to achieve. Finally, I gave the concoction another whirl with the mixer, called it baba gahnoush, and put it in a container.

I don't know if I made baba gahnoush or not.

The problem wasn't my enthusiasm for the task, nor my dedication. The problem was an uncertain goal. I wanted baba gahnoush, but my culinary memory didn't extend far enough for me to know how it looked nor how it tasted. I needed an experienced guide.

As I've pondered that bowl of eggplant dip (which may or may not be baba gahnoush), I've realized the life of a disciple is a lot like my cooking efforts. Living like Jesus intended is impossible if we don't know what it's supposed to look like, to feel like, to be like.

That's what the authors of the New Testament hoped to show us through their words and lives. When Paul said, "do what I do," it wasn't pride talking.  He wanted his readers to understand one truth. "This is how the Christian life looks. Do it this way." 

I don't want his shipwrecks, prison bars, or chains, but I'd sure like to have the power Paul had. His writings are filled with absolute abandon and reckless surrender. He was all-in for Christ, no matter the cost.

Paul wasn't a pew-sitter. He was a world-changer, and THAT is our pattern. He told everyone who would listen about the One who changed his life. He pressed on, no matter what happened. He lived what he taught.

If we want the power of God that Paul had, we'll have to walk the path Paul walked, all-in, faith-filled, perseverance. That's how we know we've achieved the life of a disciple.

Today, let's ask ourselves if we're living a life that's intended to be that of a disciple or if we're living the disciple life the first century writers tried to show us. Which do we want? Which does Jesus want us to have? 

If we need to make changes whether in priority, in thoughts, or in actions, let's look to Scripture for direction and do what it says. It's that easy. It's that hard. It's worth it.

"however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us...For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eager wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;" Philippians 3:16-17, 20 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Blood-of-Jesus Family Reunion