I think I’m a pretty good cook even though I’ve had the occasional flop. One time I tried to make spinach noodles from scratch. Of course I attempted it for the first time right before I had company coming for lunch.
I discovered that it’s pretty hard to make homemade lasagna without noodles. And even if they’d been successful, my green noodles weren’t very appetizing. I had to order out for pizza.
That was a long time ago. I learned not to try something so difficult at the last minute without any experience. I also learned that even though you follow the recipe exactly, it doesn’t always work out.
I learned how to cook by mail. My mom sent me many recipes over the years when I was young and single and lived far from home. I found some of those recipe cards recently as I was weeding through things.
Chicken and Rice for One. Beef Stew for One. Pancakes for One. How to Soft Boil an Egg. I smiled as I read each card. Each one was designed especially for me with love. Each one brought back good memories.
I made the Chicken and Rice for One for my very first Christmas alone. Mom knew that because of bad weather I wouldn’t be able to come home for the holidays. So she sent this recipe along with my gifts. It was a simple recipe to follow. I put it all together in an ovenproof dish and placed it in the oven right before I left for Christmas Eve services. In the midst of a blizzard, it’s great to come home to good smells and an even better tasting dinner.
Over the years Mom has given me more recipes that are more challenging, but just as good. Whenever I make one of her recipes I smile to myself and remember the love she puts into every meal she’s ever made for others.
But since moving to the farm after getting remarried last fall, I’ve had a few cooking challenges. I’ve attempted new recipes that have been unsuccessful. I’ve heard myself say more than once, “But I followed the recipe exactly.”
One time I actually put the leftovers out for the possums, Lawrence and FloElla. They’ve been around a long time and are more like outside pets than wild animals. The sad part, which I hesitate to admit, is that they wouldn’t eat the leftovers. Nothing I’ve made since has turned as bad, but they’ve become the standard.
I’ll ask, “Do you think the possums would eat this? Should I put it out for them?”
“No, I wouldn’t put this out for the possums.”
We laugh about it now, but there are still times when something I cook or bake doesn’t turn out like it should. I made a homemade rhubarb pie with fresh rhubarb. When it was done, you could literally turn it to the side and drain the juice into a glass. It was tasty, but very soggy.
“What happened? I asked.
“You should have put in more flour.”
“But I followed the recipe exactly.”
“It still needs more flour.”
That’s so frustrating. Somehow I’m supposed to look at the unbaked pie and know that it needs more flour. Why doesn’t it say so in the recipe?
Have you ever felt that way about life? You do everything you’re supposed to do. You follow the rules as if they’re ingredients in a recipe.
You’re careful to live a good life. But out of nowhere, tragedy strikes. You get a bad diagnosis. Or someone you love does. You’re fired from your job. Your spouse decides to leave. Your child gets into trouble. There are countless scenarios of things that can go wrong and do go wrong. You think to yourself, “But I did everything I was supposed to.” You followed life’s recipe exactly.
Remember what Jesus said to the disciples? “...In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The first part of that verse is often forgotten. Jesus says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.”
In the midst of hard times when we follow the recipe of life exactly but nothing turns out like we think it should, we can have peace if we trust in Jesus.
He’s already overcome the world with its sin and trouble by dying on the cross. After three days he triumphantly rose from the dead. He’s fought the battle for each one of us and he’s won. Our sins are forgiven.
All we have to do is to believe in Jesus and surrender our lives to him. He died for us, we must live for him. It’s a simple recipe that always turns out just right.