Found Yourself Saying, “But I Did All the Right Things”?

The recipe promised a quick and easy quiche dinner with no need to roll out a crust, instead the ingredients would separate during baking. A lovely crust would form on the bottom while the bacon, eggs and cheese gently browned on top. But after the allotted cooking time, the soupy mixture poured into the pie pan was a soupy mess, and the self-forming crust was nowhere to be seen. I double-checked the ingredients, reread the instructions, checked the oven temperature, and couldn’t find a mistake.

I set the kitchen timer for another ten minutes, then another ten minutes, then another ten minutes. After doubling the baking time and still no crust, I ripped the recipe in pieces and tossed it out. Over delivered pizza I moaned, “The quiche flopped. I can’t figure out why, but I did all the right things.”

Cooks and bakers work hard to develop foolproof recipes; there’s more than 922 cookbooks on amazon with that claim in the title. Make precise measurements, use quality ingredients in an established procedure, and you can reliably crank out tasty products. It usually works in the kitchen, and it seemed reasonable the principles would apply in life. If I ate in moderation, exercised, avoided high fructose corn syrup and ingredients I couldn’t pronounce I would be healthy. If I went to church, studied the Bible, told other people about Jesus, gave money, was baptized, and treated others like I wanted to be treated, my spiritual life would blossom.

But when the crust didn’t form in some relationships, in a few body parts, in my spiritual life, I blamed God. I had used the right ingredients, at least he could brown around the edges. That was the deal, wasn’t it? I had done all the right things, now it was his turn.

Potter's hands shaping clayThe prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah use another creative process as an analogy for our life experiences and our relationship to God. Both reprimand the clay pots (the Israelites) who think they can tell the potter (God) what they should look like or that he’s doing it wrong (Jeremiah 18:1-11; Isaiah 45:9). Paul picks up the theme in Romans 9:20-21 where he warns the pottery (Christians) not to talk back to the potter (God).

When frustrated and perplexed with circumstances and people, I still do. God patiently listens to me rant while waving the recipe card in the air and bemoaning that life that isn’t going as planned. Then Paul’s words prick my heart: Who do I think I am? Who do I think God is? Who do I think is in control? I regularly pray “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” do I mean it? Yes, and after a serious flop or two I’ll shred the recipe for “A Life without Challenges or Suffering” again. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, the longing for such a life means the satisfaction of that kind of desire is possible. But that time won’t come because I do all the right things and God plays along; it will come on God’s timetable when he redeems this world and his clay pots.

It’s a tough space to live in as a pot that forgets it’s pottery and not the potter, a stubborn pot that wants control of the clay. To let other hands shape me, to trust the design plan, to have confidence in the finished product requires surrender and faith in the potter. It’s a simple and foolproof recipe, but a hard one to follow.

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