Who could forget that dreadful day a couple of weeks ago, when I was pathetically conquered (and a little undone) over an enormously overfilled and saggy diaper, followed by a completely heinous attempt to bake a loaf of bread. Then the perfectly placed cherry on the top: my sweet but rather unwilling homeschooler dragging his feet through EVERY single task we attempted. (Click here if you'd like a refresher.)
After that big downer of a day, I became even more resolute: I was determined to find a workable and yummy bread recipe. I had an embarrassingly domestic "Suzy Homemaker" baking vision dragging me onward. I wanted to create my very own soft, spongy, moist, sandwich-style bread from scratch…and I especially wanted my kids and husband to LOVE it. I thought: "No big deal, I’ve got this! It’ll be cheaper, more healthful and I’ll feel SOOO proud of myself!" I tried recipe after recipe, all boasting their ease, quality and ability to please. I mixed and kneaded and w-a-i-t-e-d…and kneaded, and waited, and shaped, and finally baked. The result: disappointing, nasty bread! So much effort and such high hopes with no triumph and absolutely NO victory!
BUT, then I found a recipe for something called “no knead bread” and suddenly I’d created the most beautiful looking artisan style, rounded loaf ever with the softest, spongiest, and moistest (yet fully baked center) texture ever! It was absolutely brilliant! But by this point in the bread attempting process I knew this wasn’t as a result of my brilliance. I’d tried so many other recipes with beautiful, winning photos attached, and in spite of all that, and my hard work, I fell face first, flat onto my flour coated floor (metaphorically speaking, of course).
The trick: do absolutely nothing!! Literally, all I did was put flour, salt, water and yeast in a bowl and mix it briefly and, voila! The bulk of the magic happened while I did anything and everything else; until baking time (which also required little time, effort or skill). I was beside myself; full of disbelief and excitement. I had to make sure my amazing results weren't a 'one time only' deal. I’ve since baked at least 5 batches. All were perfect (on the inside) and rustic on the outside, easy, lovely and most important- tasty. But with all this baking, minus any real effort or skill it got me to thinking... why wasn’t I able to muster a scrumptious home baked loaf of sandwich bread with a whole lot of effort?? The more I pondered, the more analogous to spiritual living my whole bread conundrum was beginning to feel.
So many years of my life have been spent working exhaustingly hard at being “good”. I believed, that my actions were a representation of my heart (which isn't altogether terrible theology, just incomplete theology for another time). So I naturally but wrongfully concluded that all I needed to do was to will my outsides to look the way I desperately desired my insides to look. I compiled all the customary ingredients (I read my Bible, I prayed, I acted kind and I tried not to intentionally sin). Then I added it all to my life thinking it would be the perfect recipe for spiritual success. Eventually it all crumbled…or maybe I crumbled. I looked pretty good (at times) on the outside, but my insides were dry and cavernous. My desire for perfection was exhausting and it left me feeling like a complete failure. I was painfully aware of my imperfections all the time and I began to feel really bitter. I was angry with myself for my inability to be “good enough”. I was angry with God for the absurdly high expectations I believed he had and really angry with all the people who seemed to be enjoying their lives without the element of anal retentive perfectionism. I was miserable!
All those sandwich bread recipes that required so much of my effort and time, they all looked so tidy and orderly on the outside, but like me, they had a hidden mess on the inside. I didn't understand that authentic spirituality wasn't just a mental decision. It didn't look one specific way or take a certain shape. It, like the "no knead bread" recipe required a sort of deep fermentation process, where all the ingredients were forced to just sit with each other (for a LONG time) and just be; not do anything. That extra time is what completely changes the composition of the dough. My composition had stayed the same because my spirituality didn't really involve God; just my recipe of rules. It was really just hollow superstition. I wasn't really spending any time with God and allowing him to change me.
Even after all these years, the resting part (the just "being") isn't easy for me. Sometimes I find myself wishing that I could just muster and shape my own spirituality, real quick and easy. I still struggle a bit with insecurities and perfectionism but after taking my hands off of the process, I'm different. I'm not as tidy or buttoned up as I used to be. I'm a bit rustic...let's call it "artisan" looking. And like my bread, I'm softer on the inside and minus that gaping cavern.
Writer and fellow traveler on the road of life.