Staying in the Kitchen
Today is my husband’s birthday. His favorite food in the world might just be a fresh peach and he loves a birthday cake with icing as much as any five-year-old. What could be better for him than a peach cake with peach icing?
The recipe seemed simple enough and I assembled the ingredients yesterday so my daughter and I could start making it. It’s messy work. The fine powder of cake flour settles over everything on the counters when you add it to the spinning beaters, even slowly, alternating with the wet ingredients like the directions say. The peach puree goes from the blender to a heavy saucepan on the stove to reduce by 3/4. The sugary paste left in the pot will need lots of hot water, dish soap and soaking. There’s three layer- pans to wash, a mixing bowl and beaters twice. They are needed for both batter and icing.
I did not set out to write three blog posts on frying chicken and messy kitchens as a metaphor for soul work; but here I am, in one more post, still thinking about the work of transformation, of how a soul changes, and I’m back to the kitchen.
In the last post, I found myself asking these questions:
What if the path to transformation is through the long waits, the practices and rituals piled week upon week, year after year? What if growth happens in the inconvenience, in the suffering, with the relinquishment of our own plans and expectations?
There’s nothing convenient about making a cake from scratch, especially when you mess up and have to throw the first batch of icing in the trash, go back to the grocery story for more butter and cream cheese, and begin again. I’ll be going repeating the ritual, step after step, this time with more attention, relinquishing other plans and expectations for today because I’m starting over.
Our kitchens are said to be ‘the heart of the home.’ Creativity happens there. Warmth and sustenance are served there. It’s the place of nourishment and congregation. We clean our whole house to get ready for a party, only to realize everyone is hanging out in our kitchens. They are the rooms of our homes where order and cleanliness are most necessary because so much happens there and the life of the family is sustained from it. The kitchen is also the first room in the house to run out of supplies. Replenishment is a weekly, sometimes, daily event if you do the grocery shopping for your family.
At the heart of our selves is the soul, the place where the God’s Spirit dwells in us. Creativity, warmth and sustenance are there also. And like our kitchens, our souls gets messy in a hurry. The place within we most need to spend time and pay attention, we flee or settle for disorder and chaos. This part of us from which we create, nourish and warm others, we ignore at our own peril. The soul is depleted way before the mind and body recognize the symptoms. The graces of replenishment and repentance are necessary if we are going to offer anything life-giving to another.
But who wants to face the many ways we miss the mark or own our part in difficult relationships we have? Who wants to patiently endure? Who wants to keep doing the right thing when there seems to be no reward? Standing over the hot skillet, unclogging a stopped up sink, emptying the garbage, repeating the quotidian tasks of chopping, battering, spreading, and rolling… all to be consumed and done again the next day… Spiritual practices feel like kitchen work - repetitive, sometimes boring, and a seeming waste of time. The drive-through is so tempting.
Meister Eckhart said, “God is at home. It’s we who have gone out for a walk.” Eckhart’s walk is our drive-through mentality.
We turn on the noise and take the shortcut, heading away from solitude and silence, from words and prayers and meditation, from reconciliation with another, from persevering that produces character, from enduring for the joy set before us.
If only we could stay in the heart of the home, the kitchen of our selves, the place where the Indwelling Lover of our souls will feed us. For there we will taste and see that He is good.