Thursday, July 21, 2011

I decided that I'd start making sourdough bread again this morning. We had a nasty falling out a few months ago, and I've really not been able to stomach the idea (no pun intended) of going through the arduous bread-making process until now. It's so much more than just a process, making sour dough bread alters my way of life. I have to feed it and fix it and let it rise and knead it and take care of it and monitor it, and to be honest, after a few months, I was worn out. It's like a having a pet, except the pet doesn't lick you or cuddle up or get excited to see you when you come home. It just sits there, bubbling like a witch's cauldron, just waiting until it can give me another deadline.

OK. I am being dramatic. Basically I thought I could whip up some bread every now and then, and I was excited about it. I didn't realize the bread would have me whipped. I think I am realizing that for most of my life I've taken pride in the fact that I hate commitments and I shy away from responsibility, and the Lord is putting me in a lot of situations where Charis can't operate that way anymore: Eden, for example. (This is a responsibility I gladly shoulder) Bread dough, on the other hand, isn't.

So why, if I've spent this long complaining about it, am I making it again? Good question. I guess because I had a dream last night that it snowed in July and that everyone was decorating for Christmas already, including H&M and I stomped out of the store telling them I wasn't coming back. I am already having a little bit of anxiety over winter's ominous approach. And naturally, I overcome my fear by trying to recount the things I do enjoy about winter, ie: warm, fluffy, oversized pieces of sourdough bread.

I started thinking today while I was plopping potato flakes into active dry yeast and smelling the warm air wafting up from the mixture, of how many other things I quit in life just because the process isn't what I was expecting. In simpler terms, it wasn't as easy to reach my goal as I had initially believed it would be.

Sometime in March my training program for the Indianapolis half marathon launched into killer-mode. Meaning I actually had to push myself, and run further than I'd ever gone before. The first few times I ran long milers, I loved it. I felt enthralled with the idea that I was finally going distances instead of circling the same three or four miles I usually did. But as the miles added up and I had exhausted all of my mental conversation that one run could afford, I began to hate it. I started to think that no race could be work that many weeks of boring training. And because I'd never competed in a race, I had no idea what kind of a reward the race would actually be. What if I spent the thirteen miles of race day being equally as miserable as I did on the days that I only ran ten for training? I started to resent anyone who thought they were capable of entertaining their own brains while running one and two hours straight. I started to think I was in over my head.

Thankfully, I'm married to a level-headed man who doesn't care about whether or not I feel mentally drained during runs. He cares that he's paid a forture for races, and he didn't let me quit training. So despite all of my grumbling, I showed up to the big day, (it helped that I ran the first race with one of my dearest friends who I hadn't seen in nearly two years) and as I crossed the starting line --yes, the starting line-- I was so struck with gratification and excitement that I was literally in tears. It was the first time in my life that I had applied myself for a length of time to anything, and that I was actually following through. Needless to say, the finish line was equally as exciting, but I was to exhausted to cry. Good thing I took care of that at mile 1.

In the weeks that followed those races I started to think differently about alot of things in life. I started to believe that if I set my mind to it, I could probably get a lot more things done. It reminded me of a prayer I had prayed around the time Eden was born, where I asked the Lord to bring me closer to Him. And at the time I was studying trials, and sufferings, and I was struck by how often God used hard and difficult things to get a hold of people's hearts. And it wasn't like I prayed ignorantly that I'd be brought closer, or that I'd have a bunch of trials so I would get closer. I just prayed something like, "God, I just want the honor and privelege of knowing You, and pressing in, and I don't care what it looks like because I know that You are good. Your character is perfect, and there isn't anything unfaithful in You." (I didn't pray this exact prayer, but its a paraphrase of what was on my heart)

Let me just say here, that the danger, of course, is when we pray to get close to God but we harbor fear about what that means for our lives. Being close to Jesus is the safest place we can absolutely be. Like David says, the nearness of God is our good. The enemy is constantly trying to trip us up, and convince us that when we get too close to God, God is going to ask too much, and we'll end up with too little. The truth is, the more we crave Jesus, the less it matters what we have, and so He ends up just spilling blessing in our hearts because it isn't the blessings that we value anymore- its Him, and finally our hearts can be trusted with abundance. (Interruption just to clarify: I feel like I am saying all of these really firmly because I believe them to be true, but I'm not an expert, and I don't know everything about God and how He works and why He lets bad things happen to us sometimes and why the circumstances don't always reflect the reality that He is good...but I know He has answers for us, and if we ask, He'll either give us the answers or give us the peace to make it to eternity without them)

Anyway, back to the main point. The main point is that it's taken me many miserable days, tears, moments of missing my family and feeling so torn between a new home that I love and the old home where I feel like I used to belong so well, to finally realize that this is maybe part of the answer to the prayer I prayed. There isn't a day that passes where I'm not aware, at some point, that I rely on Jesus for my happiness and joy. And even though I fail at it sometimes, it's been so life-giving to trust HIm for joy, and to actually know my need for HIm every single day.

When I think about the woman I want to be at the end of my life, she isn't very much like the woman I am today. But I know that if I continue to obey the Lord, and if I stick it out in trials (even though my trials seem trivial compared to so many other people's trials) that the process will be worth it.

And so, naturally, in light of my new determination to appreciate the processes of life, I'm going to make sourdough bread again. And I'm going to enjoy being chained to it. One bite of it fresh out of the oven, and I'll know exactly why I went through all of the trouble. That's a good word about Heaven too. One bite of it and we'll be thinking, "Now that is worth it all."