Thursday, August 25, 2011

big red messes

I was eating dinner with a family from church when their youngest, about 3 years old at the time, bravely took control of the ketchup bottle. But he missed his plate and squirted a big puddle of it on the table instead. His face reflected his alarm and disappointment, and after getting his mother’s attention he insisted, “Mom, you should have helped me.” It’s moments like these when I try hard to observe parents’ responses, hoping to gather some wisdom for when it's my turn. His mother calmly assured him they would clean up the ketchup. She helped him wipe up the mess and squeeze some out on his plate. In a few minutes, the boy was happily enjoying his French fries.

I think of this scene often because it heartbreaking to see this young boy struggle to do something himself, then fail. Just as heartbreaking is his obvious trust for his mother and his misplaced frustration. His insistence that she should have been helping him, even though he didn’t ask for help, points to his knowledge that his mother is a master that he can learn things from — things like squeezing ketchup in neat dollups on your dinner plate. She’s also the one who can keep him safe and clean, away from what’s messy.

I also think of this scene when I make mistakes and need to ask God for mercy. My response is often the same as this boy’s — God should have helped me. I’m his daughter, his beloved! Why did he let me make this mistake? I’d feel much safer if things had gone smoothly, if he’d seen the big puddle of red mess I was about to make, taken the bottle away, and done it himself.

And even when I do ask for help, sometimes I still make the mistake I'm hoping to avoid...

The mother’s response is so insightful, too — the point isn’t to avoid the big red mess, but to learn to squeeze it yourself and to not be afraid and also to enjoy the ketchup.

So we clean it up, give it another squeeze, and treasure that my mother-God is close enough to hear me when I call. And some French fries always help, too.

Monday, August 15, 2011

faking it and faith

Fake it till you make it.

This phrase has been sitting with me like a steak that takes too long to digest. That is, I may be having a hard time really getting it.

But let me share a few things that have been helping.

I recently started following (read: stalking) Aarti Sequeira, who won The Next Food Network Star. Bright and engaging, Aarti's story of “making it big” is filled with both hard work and synchronicity. She went from journalist to cooking school student to home-video star to cable network star. That home-video part is what has intrigued me. She decided she wanted to have a cooking show, and she created one in her own home, using her own supplies, filmed by her husband, and self-distributed on her blog. In that sense, she’s the perfect example of one who faked it until she made it. And she made it big.

I see two aspects to this idea. First there’s hard work and hustle and practice. That’s the practical part of faking it. And that's what I was really intending to write about, taking a cue from Aarti.

But then I found this scripture:

We call Abraham "father" not because he got God's attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn't that what we've always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, "I set you up as father of many peoples"? Abraham was first named "father" and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn't do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, "You're going to have a big family, Abraham!" – Romans 4:17-18, The Message

So there’s also faith, the acting as if the reality already was, even if you can’t see it or touch it, or if others don’t validate it as real. As a person who’s trying to fear and follow the God who created the universe, and as one who has dreams and desires and impasses and obstacles, I realize that this idea has huge implications for me.

I love that phrase: “with a word make something out of nothing.” I think a lot about the things that don’t yet exist and how I can make them happen. There are some action steps for me to take, really important ones, and yet there’s also this: that God speaks life where there’s death, makes something out of nothing. I’m trying to be articulate here, but I don’t know if I can express how exciting that is to me. It gives new dignity to faking it — because it becomes about practicing with faith that God is at work, calling this new thing into existence.

What do you think? How are you faking it with faith? I want to hear!

I wanted this post to be well-thought out, but it’s turned into a semi-stream-of-consciousness mess. (I am just back from vacation and feeling slow and clumsy with words today.) Thanks in advance for your graciousness.