I love cooking. It’s a very practical science, it’s a creative game, and, well, there’s food involved.
And for the most part, I’m a fairly competent “kitcheneer”, thanks to my skilled mother. I can make you forget you’ve had chicken three times this week, or that you’ve just eaten your fifth cookie in a haze of carb-induced euphoria. I can wield knives and gadgets and raw food with confidence. I can cook on a budget and for people with completely opposite dietary needs. I know what I’m doing.
But in the last three months or so, I’ve suddenly had a string of unusual accidents. There was the meatloaf that got away, and the explosion of glass and venison that followed. A steam burn. A couple of solid hits with a sharp knife that took weeks to heal (not cool when you’re a pianist, let me tell you). Bad luck? No. If anything, I have amazing luck, because I really shouldn’t have any dishes (or fingers) left. You see, my inner Betty Crocker tries to nudge me to use wisdom based on what I already know, but my inner Lucy Ricardo brushes it off in favor of what I think I can handle with some “ordinary common sense”.
Betty Crocker: “Don’t leave that in the oven long; the honey will caramelize too quickly and harden.”
Lucy: “Nah, I want it crunchy.” (Yeah. That lovely honey-glazed chickpea broke my tooth.)
Betty Crocker: “Turn the knife the other way in case it slips and cuts you.”
Lucy: “Pssh, I’ve done this a thousand times.” (It slipped.)
Betty Crocker: “Better grab the second oven mitt; that pan looks heavy.”
Lucy: “I can get it with one hand if I distribute the weight evenly from this corner.” (I’ll miss that meatloaf pan.)
Proverbs 1:17 says, “Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.” One bird may scorn the idea of the silly human thinking she’s gullible enough to fly into his trap; she’s skilled at flight and maneuver, and she knows she’s tough enough to handle it. Another bird may watch him set that trap, and steer clear of that area forever – because she knows that this isn’t a passive little trap of the hunter to see what he can catch today; this is a calculated effort to bring her down.
Beware anything that triggers thoughts of “That won’t affect me,” or “I’m strong enough”. Those phrases are the flesh’s way of convincing your mind that your conscience is wrong. If you have the Holy Spirit within you, that knee-jerk reaction is ALWAYS preceded by a warning.
- This TV show has changed for the worse. “I know when to turn it off. I just want to see how this season ends.”
- This guy/girl is full of red flags; this is not the one. “I can just break up if it’s not working.”
- That website uses a lot of profanity. “I just want to read this funny list. I can skim past the trash.”
- You need to be in church tonight. “My boss promised it would be just one Sunday shift. They won’t ask again.”
- That Christian novelist is trying to build sexual tension with compromising situations between characters. “I wouldn’t do that. It’s just fiction.”
- If you skip your prayer time this morning, you’ll be too busy later. “I’m prayed up. It’s OK if I miss one day.”
Whether in the kitchen, in the car, in my spiritual life, or anywhere else, I find that any time I whip out my “I-can-handle-this” card, one of two things will happen. One, I’m wrong and realize just how much I can’t handle it after all. Two, successfully averting disaster starts building an immunity to that quiet voice of warning until I cease to hear it at all.
- “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (I Thessalonians 5:22) That used to seem impossible to me – I try to avoid giving the appearance of doing wrong, but someone can always misconstrue it as something evil. Now I see this isn’t just an instruction to live above reproach; it’s also a warning not to touch anything that has an appearance of evil.
- Ask the Holy Spirit for discernment. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5) He is your Teacher. I promise He will not roll His eyes when you ask Him yet again for help deciding whether something is right.
- Learn from others, both those who are still being used of God and those who are no longer effective. “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)” (Philippians 3:17-19) You may not know a person’s whole story and why they end up where they do, but with practice you begin to see patterns. Almost invariably, the tipping point of pass or fail is distraction from Scriptural priorities.
Recently I watched a famous chef prepare to do the very ordinary task of crushing garlic with the side of his knife, but his method didn’t look familiar to me. As he continued to talk, the clove of garlic shot out from under the blade and hit the floor. For one quiet moment he stared after it, then said, “You know, that’s why my mother told me never to do it that way.” I had to laugh at his candor, but I found some wisdom there too: A world-renowned expert is prone to mistakes too, when he doesn’t bother to follow a simple instruction.
I will never be such a pro at life that I’m unaffected by my own little mistakes, whether it’s the knife or the ungodly influence that “slipped” and cost me dearly. And today, as I type for the first time in two weeks without any pain!, I challenge you to listen closely for the next time you say the words, “It’s not that big a deal,” because there is a sharp knife in your hand ready to slip.