Monday, April 28, 2014

When The Daily Grind is the Only Way

Saturday afternoon found me trapped in the kitchen making my mother-in-law's special potato salad recipe for Sunday dinner.  Like many dishes that are made from scratch, it is memorable and unparalleled by anything I've ever bought at any restaurant or store.  In other words, it's worth it in the end.

The secret to this dish's success is what makes it so frustrating and time consuming--no shortcuts.  Believe me.  I've tried.

Try and mince the celery in the food processor and it's more soggy, irregular-sized mush than crunch.  Use pre-chopped onions?  More mush.  Use the mandolin chopper with your five pounds of red potatoes, and the consistent-sized cubes are too small so that post-boiling, they tend to fall apart.  More mush.  And fresh boiled eggs don't peel themselves--no shortcut possible for that step.

Unless you're Rachael Ray with everything minced, chopped, boiled, and peeled by your expert staff off stage before your thirty minute show begins, this recipe alone will keep you in the kitchen for a solid hour.  It sounds ridiculous to invest such a large amount of time into a single side dish you can buy by the tub at the grocery store.  But the longhand labor is necessary.

Slow step by slow step, I craft a culinary masterpiece that turns mere food to be consumed into food to be savored.

This isn't how we generally look at food or life in general for that matter.  We're always looking for a shortcut, a faster, easier way to get from point A to point B, to achieve X result.

I am guilty of sometimes even trying to take shortcuts when it comes to my relationship with God--cramming a week's worth of Bible study into a couple days, shoving a day's worth of prayer to the very end...all the while expecting the same results as if I had studied His Word  every day of the week instead of just a few, as if I had prayed all throughout the day instead of just at bedtime.

But our relationship with God doesn't work that way.  No matter how hard we may wish for one, there are no shortcuts to a relationship with God, no shortcuts to becoming a mirror image of Christ.

Instead, once we have the cornerstone of Christ as our foundation, the only way to build the walls of that relationship is one stone at a time.  The Word of the Lord  is given to us precept upon precept, manageable only one stone at a time.
In Isaiah's day, the people ridiculed the prophet for his manner of teaching them God's Word.  They felt Isaiah was trying to teach them the basics, much like a baby, and complained, "To whom would He teach knowledge, And to whom would He interpret the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just taken from the breast? For He says, 'Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there'" (Is. 28:9-10).

The Message paraphrase of the same verses says, "We’re not babies in diapers to be talked down to by such as you—‘Da, da, da, da, blah, blah, blah, blah. That’s a good little girl,that’s a good little boy"

And yet, since the children of Israel refused to listen to even the most basic, childlike lessons from the mouth of God's prophet, this is exactly how God said He would speak to them, though through a foreign tongue of their oppressors and through judgment: "He who said to them, 'Here is rest, give rest to the weary,' And 'Here is repose,' but they would not listen. So the word of the Lord to them will be, 'Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there'" (Is. 28:12-13).  

In these verses, God offered His children "rest."  He offered them "repose."  The requirement, though, was that they trust in Him, that they listen to His Word and obey it. 

They needed to listen to and learn those foundational truths in order to proceed to the more difficult truths of God.  Yet, since man can only build upon what he already knows and God's children really didn't know too much in their hearts, God had to start again to lay the groundwork before starting up on the walls.

God told them, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.  He who believes in it will not be disturbed" (Is. 28:16).

This is Jesus, our firm foundation, the one God was sending to a people who would not listen, who did not want to be taught from the ground up.

As much as our flesh wants to shortcut everything, we must commit ourselves to the daily grind of the Christian walk with Jesus if we want a real relationship with Him.  This means learning precept upon precept, not considering any Word too childish for our learning, returning again and again to those foundational truths, and listening to both the deep and the deceptively simple messages we think we have already learned from God.

It is only in this long walk that we will be transformed, sanctified, and made righteous like Christ.

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