Why I Never Learn

- 1

I am in the process of burning our lunch. It is not a conscious decision, and there are no smoke alarms going off (yet. Side note: if you have been reading up on the blog, you may have stumbled upon the story of Marme’s Famous Chicken Pie. The Marme in question mentioned to me later a discrepancy in our recipes that may account for the difference in Quail reception of the meal: I made chicken pie. She makes chicken pot pie. You do the math)… though I just noticed an acrid burning smell coming from the general direction of my lentils and rice, so I suppose it must be about time to eat. Sigh.

Yes, this is not the first time that I have spoken about Stuck-Pot Lentils (I am snorting to myself as I write this, because I believe this is my 83rd essay since kicking this off party back in August and I cannot remember half of what I have said, yet I assume you will?), and also not the first, second or third time that I have tried this recipe and have failed to acquire crusty, golden, caramelized onion glory rather than charcoal briquette dump cake.

And maybe, given the right amount of linguistic wranglings, I can make this a defensible, even an admirable quality about myself. It is, at the least, certainly an observable trend in the makeup of my character. Have I not been pounding out the same Manheimm Steamroller piano arrangements for the last 20 years, each November assuming that this will be the year that I finally nail them to the point of being able to play them in public without humiliation? Now, the rather obvious piece that I am missing is a public to play for, but I am taking a Field of Dreams philosophy on this one: if I play it, they will come. Though good gracious, not the way I am playing it today.

Hey, it’s only November 3rd. Go easy on me.

Then there is the situation with the homemade caramels… I don’t think I am ready to talk about those yet. Fried chicken… lemon chiffon cake… frozen pizza… Man. I actually have a lot of stubbornness lurking in the dark recesses of my soul. But what makes me most uncomfortable is not the attempt to make you think that this resilience in the face of failed recipes is somehow noble. That probably isn’t all that hard to do, actually; you’re a pretty dandy bunch. No, what makes me grit my teeth is the fact that I give up on people a heck of a lot faster than I do recipes.

If I admitted to you that after 8 or so attempts to conquer Stuck-Pot Lentils, I was throwing in the towel (you know, the one that you wrap around the lid that traps in the steam that makes those French lentils stick like crazy glue to the bottom of the steel pot), you would declare me justified. The recipe must be flawed. But if I admitted that getting my feelings hurt not 8 times, but perhaps twice in a comparable length of time is enough to make me want to quit a relationship, you would see me for what I am — not resilient. Cowardly. And pretty self-centered to boot.

But there you have it. I have always been a runner. Not the good, cardiovascularly-friendly runner who loses all the curve in their derriere by pounding on pavement that never did anything to them. No, I am the sort of runner who sees danger and bolts. I am the first rat to dive off sinking ships, I have to chain myself to situations and relationships that God does not want me to abandon, because my instinct is to do just that.

I dislike having my feelings hurt.

Maybe that sounds like a trite, an obvious, possibly even a foolish thing to say. Nobody likes having their feelings hurt. And that is true, but I might argue that there is a wide variety of possible responses to being burned, each fraught with mishap in its own way, and I am merely addressing the one I see most prominently in myself. You might be prone to drama in the face of hurt — hours spent over coffee, hashing and rehashing every word and tone and inflection, unsatisfied by the result unless somebody cries. I hate crying. You might be prone to anger, to lashing out, to lighting whatever hurt you on fire. You might look for ways to diagnose the person who hurt you — and generally, we do this when it is a sin we are overly familiar with, thus making it easy to spot everywhere else. And so you pull them aside, while pulling a serious face, and tell them that it sure looks like they have a problem with bitterness… because actually you have a problem with bitterness. I think it is a bit like buying a minivan (I am told this true of Mercedes and sports cars too, but that is, how shall we say, outside my sphere of experience) — once you own a minivan, you see them everywhere. There is also a funny little half wave that you give each other over the steering wheel, but we can get into that on another day.

All of these responses have a thing in common. They all have selfishness at their core. It is incredibly possible that the hurt was real, maybe intentional and maybe not, it matters little. For myself, I struggle to stay put, to stay open, to stay wanting to try again with people who hurt me. And because sadly, my mind works in the holes and ditches, I feel compelled to make a disclaimer here: this is not always bad. I continue to search the scriptures, hoping to have my thoughts about this shaped, and I cannot find a biblical argument for constantly making yourself available as a punching bag, and I think this, as with everything else, requires wisdom and prayer to be able to discern the difference. But this much is apparent to me about my own knee-jerk responses to emotional pain — I have to fight against fleeing to the wrong places.

It doesn’t matter what your instinctual response is. You have to run to Jesus. So do I. To run to myself, to the other person, to a friend, to desperately try and make everything feel ok in my own strength is beyond futility. It is idolatry. There is a place for hiding… a Person for hiding in. Whatever else has to happen to solve the relational bump, it must begin here or we will make it even worse. There is no promise that you will feel better. Did you know that? Obedience to the Lord may still hurt like heck and you may still marvel that your lungs are even able to draw breath through such pain.

They will… He draws your every breath. (Daniel 5:23)

  1. Ellen
    | Reply

    Much for serious reflection here.
    But I am still laughing at “charcoal briquette dump cake”… thank you for finally helping me label the divider card in my recipe box with a category that so aptly describes a good portion of my kitchen results.

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