Thursday, September 25, 2014

On Cooking and Faith

My grandma Ruth was one of the best cooks I know, but whenever I would ask for a recipe, she would say that she'd have to write one down. Her ability to cook delicious food was innate, perfected by years and years of practice.

I, on the other hand, am a recipe-follower.  I love adding to the repertoire of what I serve my family, hence the bulging envelopes where I categorize my recipes. There is something about trying a new recipe that brings me joy, especially if what I make turns out to be delicious.  However, I'm not one to just make things up as I go, though I certainly tweak a recipe here and there. I used to disparage this style of cooking a bit, but recently I'm starting to stop wishing I was something else and to live into what I am instead.

Of course, no matter your cooking style may be, in order to have a meal that is delicious and as good for the body as it is for the soul, you have to head into the kitchen and do the work.  Carry-out and eating in a restaurant just don't offer the same nutritional and emotional value as do preparing a meal from scratch and eating it with people you love, at least in my opinion.

As I was thinking about this, it struck me that the same is true with faith. There are some people who will tell you that having faith is the equivalent of following a particular recipe: two parts prayer to one part chastity to three parts Bible study, or something like that. There are others who will tell you that there is no formula to follow to get to know God intimately and personally and that what works for one person may not work for someone else.

I have seen both of these methods work and know people whose faith has been enriched because of them. But like cooking, whether you tend to follow a recipe or prefer making things up as you go, no one can do the work necessary to grow in faith for you.  That is, in order to having a relationship with God that is meaningful and that informs how you live, you have to "head into the kitchen yourself" so to speak. You have to be intentional about opening your Bible, talking to God, and taking time to listen to God in and through the world around you.

And just like how eating on the run doesn't offer what a sit-down meal at home does, when we try to get to know God through reading a book or watching a movie, something will still be missing. That's because the only way you can get to know God and grow in relationship with God is by being in a living, breathing relationship with God. There are no short-cuts, no pre-packaged options.

It could be that I'm thinking about all of this because I am a pastor. Despite how passionate I am about helping other people grow in their faith, I'm learning that I can't do the work that is necessary to grow in faith for someone else.  We each have to be intentional about practicing our faith. There's just no getting around that.

It could also be that I'm thinking about this because no matter how much time I put into trying to help others discover a vibrant faith, that time doesn't replace time spent investing in my own faith.  That is, in order to keep growing in relationship with God, and in order to be the person God created and called me to be, I still need to spend time in prayer, read my Bible without preparing for a sermon, and take time to listen to the world around me.  There's just no getting around it.

As God speaks through the prophet Jeremiah, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." These words weren't directed to only some of God's people; they were intended to get the attention of all of us.

This article is taken from a column I wrote for the Alexandria Echo Press.

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