You’ve heard it said ‘life is like a box of chocolates…’ Well, my version is ‘life is like a chocolate pudding cup.’
So this past weekend I was on a retreat with Walking Stick Retreats (www.twentyfirstcc.org) called The Disappointing Messiah. We talked about the different ways God disappoints us, only to find it’s really not that disappointing because, as usual, He’s up to something when we can only see the step in front of us and He sees 5 steps down the path. I’ve been home 48 hours and have yet to find any way to start to describe and explain. Over the course of the next few weeks this blog will become my chalk board as I start to toss together thoughts into some kind of coherent pattern.
During the course of the retreat my friend Jennifer Grashel and I talked about how we need to start blogging more often again. Jennifer threw down the ‘chocolate pudding blog post challenge.’ We are both posting by November 4th a blog about chocolate pudding. Her blog can be found at http://www.jennfreeatlast.com
Now that the history is out there….on with the post…..
I just spent a weekend with a bunch of ragamuffins. We realize our brokenness and know that we need Jesus. We’re tired of playing the ‘I’m fine’ game, putting on the mask that we can handle it, and just want to live authentically. There is something powerful in that community. A realness that is unmatched. An understanding of ‘stuff’. A comfort with being uncomfortable and helping each other through it. People in a passionate pursuit of Christ and daring to believe that He loves us and wants to hang out with us….not if we’re ‘good enough’ or follow the right rules…..but just because He is absolutely crazy about us. We are letting it permeate our hearts and change our lives.
In the course of the weekend we were exposed to the power of chocolate pudding. And I realized how life is like a chocolate pudding cup.
Think about it. In the manufacturing process (there’s that word – already! – more on that later) there are many steps. The plastic mold is formed, fitted and poured. That first step must take place before the ‘good stuff’ can find a home. Now while the plastic is being worked on the focus of the cup is being made as well. It’s getting stirred and blended and readied for its target. It’s being prepared to be conformed to a mold.
And isn’t that like us in life? We are expected to fit into a mold. We have to wear the right clothes – to school, to work, to church. Say the right thing. We risk embarrassment and rejection if we dare do something ‘outside the mold.’ Think about when you were in junior high – PEER PRESSURE. What was that all about? Fitting into a mold – of what others think you should be. We don’t feel safe letting on that maybe we don’t have it all together. Much like the plastic seal lid on the pudding cup, we shove it all inside and lock it all away. It looks all nice and neat and ‘sellable’ on the outside but inside….well…we’re a mess of chocolate pudding all mixed up and squished into a tiny mold leaving no room to ‘be’ ourselves.
But what happens if you don’t want to be in a mold? What happens if you don’t want to be as others think you should be? What happens to chocolate pudding when it falls from the counter and the plastic seal lid breaks free? Yep…that’s right….you’ve got a mess on your hands. But wait! Is it really? Maybe it’s an opportunity instead. Maybe it’s a chance to sit with the uncomfortable. No one likes letting pudding escape from it’s tiny little prison. It’s not supposed to be that way. How could we let spilled pudding stay on the floor or counter top and not immediately clean it up?
How comfortable are WE when we spill out of the mold in which society tries to fit us? Are we comfortable when we spill out over the edges of the mold – when life ‘oozes’ all over the place and we think we have a mess to clean? But maybe…just maybe…in that moment of what can feel like sheer terror from the unexpected – we can just – be.
At the retreat this weekend I was blessed to be with 20 other folks who are just plain tired of being in the mold. Conforming to the mold has only gotten us a mess…an internal mess…and we are tired of living like the mess doesn’t exist. We are GLAD that we’re being squished all over the floor, that the lid has been blown off and the mess is exposed for what it is.
We had powerful moments. Sacred moments. Moments full of laughter one minute and tears the next. Because we pushed ourselves out of the mold others have put us in and have become comfortable with the mess because we know it’s only temporary. It – we – can get cleaned up. Not to be ‘good enough’ for anyone but because we want to be healed. We want to be changed. We want to learn who we are and what makes us tick. And if that means spilling chocolate pudding all over the floor then so be it.
But the part we hate is the ‘process’ it takes to get to that point. There are different types of chocolate pudding – there’s instant, there’s pre-made, and there’s stove top cooked. The pre-made gets shoved into a mold. The instant is a ‘stir and eat’ type – no waiting, little effort – a one and done type of deal. And the GOOD stuff – the stuff with the most flavor and is worth the wait – is the stove top cooked type. It’s a slow process because all the ingredients need to come together slowly to allow them the proper environment to blend and reach maximum effectiveness.
When we discover we are a mess we want the instant pudding. We want it fixed. NOW! We don’t want to be uncomfortable or have to work through things. We know they are there so just take them away! MAKE IT BETTER GOD – NOW! And God probably smiles a little at us and instead puts us on the stove top to simmer. He knows that each ingredient needs to be added and blended at just the right time and allowed to cook for just the right length at the right temperature for the pudding to taste its best. As little kids we didn’t like to wait. And I submit as adults we won’t like to wait either – especially when it comes to the messes of our lives.
There’s a word that most ragamuffins start out hating. Absolutely abhoring. And the sentiment is found in Philippians 1:6 – “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (NIV). Do you see it? ‘Who began.’ It doesn’t say ‘who made it happen with a blink of His eye or a touch of His hand.’ No. It connotes waiting. It connotes change. It connotes sitting on the stove top while it cooks. It connotes a process.
I used to HATE that word and it’s only been in the last 72 hours that I have gone from hating it to loving it. You see, after my time at retreat, after my sacred mountain moments sacrificing my Isaac, as I came down the other side of the mountain, I realized that the word ‘process’ is chalk full of HOPE! It means GOD HASN’T GIVEN UP OR QUIT OR FORGOTTEN ME. It means GOD THINKS I’M WORTHY OF HIS TIME AND ATTENTION. And it means that God has something better for me.
I am sitting on the stove top as these thoughts simmer, excited to see what ingredients come next to the blend, knowing that the pudding isn’t instant and lacking of flavor, but it is being hand cooked by the Creator Himself, and while the process may take longer, it takes better in the end.