Tuesday, May 17, 2016
The Invitation. . . .or The Parable of the Roast That Wasn't
Once upon a time Preacher Girl got up early, on the one morning she could have slept in. It was spring break and one of her beloveds had requested a special meal. In fact, in honor of spring break and all the extra time afforded by unscheduled days, the whole mess of them had been feasting upon special meals all week. But finally it was time for the crowning jewel of the weekly menu. That morning she peeled and sliced the potatoes; peeled and sliced the carrots. Added a few onions, not too many. Then prepared the cut of beef, a beautiful roast that would rest upon that meticulous bed of veggies. As she seasoned she considered how it was a bigger cut of meat than usual. She had splurged. But she knew it wouldn't be wasted and would probably provide at least a couple of meals. Somehow leftovers from something hearty and homemade always seem to be more blessing than burden. The extra cost and attention going into this one would be worth it. She finished up the roast and then packed a picnic lunch for a whole slew of boys ready to take on an outdoor adventure. Then they all walked out the door.
We had spent the day hiking the ridge in Mammoth Cave National Park, overlooking views of the Green River winding its way through the fertile valley awakening with spring. We had enjoyed climbing rocks with heights that made us feel a bit adventurous without being overly dangerous. We had exerted ourselves just to the extent that our packed lunch was a welcome refreshment, yet not so much as to spoil dinner. I drove home from our outing so happy, so looking forward to the meal that awaited us that evening when my sweet husband would return from work and hear the wonders of our adventures from boys eager to tell tales. And I knew even from the time the garage door opened I would be able to smell something marvelous cooking, something well on its way to being everything our family was hungry for.
Except it wasn't.
When I opened the car door and stepped into the garage I smelled nothing. And when I walked inside the house I saw the truth. I had not turned on the slow cooker. There was the roast in all of its raw, now ruined, glory.
For days afterward I couldn't shake the feeling I had over it. It moved me deeply in ways hard to articulate. At one point I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart, not so much in words as much as in an unfolding understanding: "You know, Sami, it's kind of like the life I have poured Myself into. All that preparation, the patient tending, all leading to a purpose that is meant to fill the hungry. And then that person, who has so patiently endured My preparation, doesn't trust Me enough to actually do the thing I created and prepared them for." This revelation did nothing to relieve my ache. Mostly it just put a name on it. I was grieving more than a roast, but a lost possibility. And it felt like a deeply personal message, aimed directly at me. But for the life of me I couldn't say what possibility God was asking me to pursue that I had ignored.
A couple of weeks ago I was visiting with a dear friend. In the midst of our conversation she looks at me and says, "So Sami, when are you going to start calling yourself a [creative person who has a creative gift and should share it with others]?" We spoke of the creative process that seems to always happen within and around me and how God might have plans for it beyond the safe boundaries I have limited it to. I had never thought of myself in the ways she was articulating. And then she says, "I can't help thinking of the parable of the talents." At which point the parable of the roast that wasn't made complete sense. It was like God so graciously giving me a heads up. He has offered me the invitation to trust Him, to trust that all that has transpired before in my life has had purpose beyond the moment I lived it. And that there is something greater on the other side of my trust and stepping out in faith. Something wonderful that will feed the hungry with something extraordinary He wants to do in and through me. Something that will probably not be easy, but will transform the ordinary offering of my life through the Fire of His Power and Love, into something He can use to build His Kingdom. Isn't that what I pray everyday? Thy Kingdom come? Thy Will be done? And in His mercy He has already shown me the results of saying no to the invitation: the thing I was made for never coming to fruition. Me sitting in all my prepared glory, ruined for anyone else to enjoy the fruits of His labor and the offering of my life. That roast simply ended up in the trash. And something else had to be served in its place. What I realize about all this inviting stuff takes my breath away; He has already done every preparation necessary for me to say yes. All I have to do is plug in.
I remember having a similar conversation about fifteen years ago with someone else, except I was on the other side. I had spent the day painting with a young man, a college student who was intricately connected to the campus ministry entrusted to my care. In praying for him the day before God had shown me piece by piece how He had different plans for this young man's life than the current one he was pursuing. As we painted a room together in that campus ministry house, I began laying out for him all the pieces of his life God had shown me the day before. God used me to help him see his life was made for more than he currently understood. Fifteen years later this young man is living out that call as a youth minister, making a difference in other young people's lives, probably having similar conversations that will change life trajectories for each of them as well. It never occurred to me that I would hear God say, "Sami, I'm going to do this for you too."
I share this story because I believe there is more than one roast at stake. It's not just my life that has an invitation coming to it, but countless others. WE, are being asked to trust in ways we never have been asked to before. WE are coming alive with possibilities we have never considered. WE are being invited to see ourselves in ways we never imagined. WE are being raised up for purposes we never envisioned. And so much rests upon our willingness to give ourselves over to God's ideas and purposes and possibilities. There are other lives that will be touched and transformed by the brilliance of God's power coming through the stuff of who we are. Now God is incredibly resourceful and always has a plan for our potential no. But it won't be the original intention. And somewhere down the road of our neglect is a person looking at the their lives and thinking to themselves, "This should have been so much more." Or looking at the hot dog before them and saying "This is supposed to be roast."
I guess I offer this as an encouragement too. Our world has a way of dashing hope and pronouncing judgment upon life potential. In a world that celebrates narrowly defined success and achievement, basing personal value upon standardized test performance, it takes tremendous amounts of faith to believe we have something essential to contribute, especially when we don't look the part of outward success. According to conventional wisdom we are deemed too old, too young, too inexperienced, too broken, too far gone, too silly, too serious, too whatever. But the Holy Spirit is moving in ways that confound convention. And you and I are the very ordinary clay vessels that He has chosen to pour His Glory through. If God so chooses, why not you? And if God so chooses, why not me? Is there anything too difficult for Him to do? And when He does do something amazing through the ordinary stuff of us, doesn't He get all the Glory? Isn't that what this world needs more than anything?