26 January, 2012

Order Amidst the Chaos

I had spent all morning, as well as the previous day, job searching.  I was feeling tired, overwhelmed, small.  As I sat down to lunch I received news that tragedy had struck some dear friends.  My heart, already weary, broke.  And my immediate, instinctive response was an all-consuming need to...bake.

So I spent the entire afternoon in the kitchen baking things...making.  I didn't really care about eating what I made; I just hungered after the joy to be found in the process, the restoration and revival found through bringing some order out of chaos.  Perhaps the tangible result was only a couple dozen cookies...but those 24 ginger spiced rounds were my small way to just push back some of the sadness -- just a bit -- by creating something good in the way I knew how.  Cutting, measuring, melting things that don't seem to belong together, and transforming them, renaming them. 

This is why I love making food.  Every meal presents me with an opportunity to undertake my own small acts of creation, of bringing delicious order out of the chaos of disparate ingredients.  As I do so, I draw upon techniques and flavor combinations - elements of culinary order - that were worked out by others long ago.  Some other person with a vestige of the Creator-God in his heart and hands worked out the best way to fashion steel into a knife blade; or what amounts of flour, water, and air would produce the best bread; or how long to let a wine mature before it was ready to be most fully enjoyed.  Someone else learned all these things, and now I get to build upon their knowledge, applying it to the resources available to me in ways that nourish and delight.  Sometimes I open the cupboard and have no idea if there is any way the ingredients at hand will come together into something coherent...but facing the challenge makes me feel so alive.  My heart and hands grasp the chance to exercise the creative instinct nested in me from birth.

"Some days I feel like all I'm doing is holding back chaos."  This was my friend Kristen's weary description of her job many months ago, but I've thought often that her words hit on the opportunity presented to us in every human endeavor, whether "just" a hobby or "just" a menial job.  A plate of cookies can't keep all the chaos of the world at bay.  But these kitchen afternoons that apply an overwhelmed heart to the business of ordering remind me that while life is hard, God is yet good.  Good to show us the delight as well as the difficult; good to gift us the buoy -- no, more than a buoy; the countering current -- of creation.

What is the creating, ordering activity in your life?

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