Olivia desperately wants to learn to cook. I have a feeling that one day she’ll be quite good at it, too. Once she learns some fundamental techniques, she will probably be a lot like her father. She’ll probably be able to randomly pull things out of the pantry and start cooking, almost like an artist who doesn’t know what her work of art will be until it’s finished. Recipes for her will only be a reference and learning guide as she grows in her understanding of what foods and ingredients go well together.
But for now, she knows next to nothing.
Because of her personality, knowing next to nothing is pretty dangerous. Olivia is a go-getter. She wants to dive in with both feet. And, she doesn’t want to just learn. She wants to know. She has to work hard to make herself slow down and take the time to learn, practice, and improve. And sometimes she just jumps in instead, learning the hard way what her foundational lack of knowledge can cost her.
And this is why we have not yet turned her loose in the kitchen. But, we’re trying to teach her. Little by little, we’re trying to instill in her an understanding of those foundational techniques. And little by little she is learning.
Recently, we were in the kitchen and Olivia was going to cook something. But she was not in the appropriate frame of mind for cooking. Instead, she was continually distracted. She had one accident after another because she wasn’t paying attention. She couldn’t follow directions. And she didn’t want to pay attention to the recipe.
After about ten to fifteen minutes of one issue after another, I gently but firmly stopped Olivia and told her she had to leave the kitchen. I explained to her that she was not in trouble, but her mind was not on cooking. I didn’t want her to get hurt or cause a major issue with what we needed to cook. I can’t remember exactly what it was she was supposed to be making, but I do know that we had to get it made and we didn’t have enough ingredients on hand to make it twice. I encouraged her to try again later, and I finished the recipe.
Fortunately for Olivia, her ability to receive adequate nourishment is not reliant on her ability to function in the kitchen as a nine-year-old. Unfortunately, however, many of us operate just like Olivia on a bad day in the kitchen when it comes to functioning as spiritual lights in this world. And, unlike Olivia in the kitchen, much does ride on our ability to function and share the truth of God’s love to this dying world.
As we walk through our days, we are continually distracted by this worry or that craving. By this gadget or that commitment. By this expectation or that activity. We are so caught up in those things that our focus on ministering to the world around us is compromised. We miss so much. We neglect to give an encouraging word here. We miss the chance to pray there. We can’t hear the prompting of the Spirit to speak the truth of Christ into a heart. We might not miss everything, but if we think about it in comparison to cooking, missing even one thing could be disastrous. If Olivia were to even leave the small amount of baking soda out of a loaf of pumpkin bread, the whole loaf would be ruined.
I am there to watch over Olivia in the kitchen. To monitor her steps. To remind her of issues. And to take over for her when she just can’t do it any longer. The Holy Spirit is there to do the same for us. But, do we listen? Olivia has to leave the kitchen if I tell her to. What will the Lord have to do to move us out of the way if we ignore His leadership?
Fortunately, God is patient with us. He continues to teach us. To use us. To work through us. Even when we are essentially ineffective, He doesn’t give up on us. And when we do finally heed His instructions, the outcome of our efforts has much more significance than any culinary creation every could.