Once upon a time, I lived in a place where I had a bakery for buying my bread and Sabbath pastries, a Meat Fairy who kept me well supplied, a farmer’s market for vegetables, and a source for local dairy. Doing my grocery shopping took a whole afternoon every week and I absolutely loved it.
But such seasons always seem to be brief, and we have since moved around and I have never quite replicated that sort of fresh, personal experience, though I continue to try. I finally gave up and learned to make pastries, my husband grows me vegetables (really no complaint there. It is the best way to garden and I highly recommend it to all you folks who bend over to stick your hands in the dirt every year: marry a vegetable farmer and you can just text him your order every day. No muss, no fuss, and much friendlier on the nails), and on one of his adventures, sallying forth into neighboring towns, the Beloved found me a butcher. Not a meat fairy, because he has yet to hand over a single piece of free or even heavily discounted meat (when I was sadly disconnected from my Meat Fairy and had to buy meat like normal people for the first time in years, I about had a heart attack when I saw the price. Incidentally, if you are ever near Walla Walla, WA, stop in and buy something tasty from Butcher Butcher Walla Walla and say hi to Squid, who is a profoundly talented and stinking nice butcher who made my life brighter for nearly 5 years), but still, a reliable source of very good meat. We like to get just enough of his excellent bacon for Sabbath breakfast every week, and it feels like a treat.
Well, this week, as I unwrapped the white paper (side note: man, I love unwrapping things in white paper. There is a particular pleasant smell that comes with butcher paper that I absolutely cannot explain, as I am fairly sure I don’t have nostalgic memories of blood and guts and that is probably what I should associate with butcher paper), my eyes widened as I encountered the biggest bacon I have ever seen. Thick cut is one thing. But this is like that song from the 40’s, Mr 5×5?
Do they make bacon from wildabeasts? I want to know. Because I imagine that if you were to take the largest carnivore you could get your hands on and aim at his haunches with an unwieldy ax, this bacon is more or less what you would end up with. I am more intentional about my Sunday mornings than any other thing in my life, because I dislike that rushed feeling where you have to screech into the church parking lot and apologize to every member of the family for any screeching that originated from your own disheveled larynx prior to the call to worship. I am opposed to flustery, frantic Sunday mornings both on principle and in practice, so as I began cooking these gigantic pork bricks, my eye darted frequently back to the clock and contemplated whether my priorities needed rearranging: bacon or shower? I know which I prefer (spoiler alert: I will never choose a shower over bacon. I know this is probably disgusting to you and will put you off ever wanting to roadtrip with me, but I just really don’t enjoy showering and do tend to stretch out the frequency as long as is decent. And there my oversharing stops. Back to the bacon), but is it loving my neighbor to invest an hour in cooking caveman bacon rather than getting myself smelling… not like bacon?
In the end, the Monumental Meat spent 20 minutes on a griddle and 10 in a piping hot oven and it tasted… well… like bacon. So I suppose that is reassuring?
The length of time it spent being un-done struck an uncomfortable chord with me. It seems to be where God is keeping me at this moment in my life — not finished. I know what I want to be — savory, happy, crunchy, useful, feed-my-sheep kind of bacon. I know the end goal, and I even feel clear that the current heat and griddle time is necessary — the Cook has not walked away while my fat, greasy sin splatters about (is my metaphor grossing you out yet?), nor is He contemplating scrapping this batch and going off to find better bacon. I can still praise. I can and do. But there is a lot more time between raw and a feast than I ever could have imagined; my emotions are not cooked through.
It is the waiting that twists my soul. In the waiting, I worry that I have already so deeply and irrevocably failed the trial He gave me… failed because it hurts, hurts so sharply that I scarcely know what to do with the feeling, because I feel all the pain of it so intensely. Failed because some days I cannot push my lungs out far enough to draw deep, hopeful breaths. Failed because I cannot seem to stop the panic that sets in when I see the heft, the dark menacing outline of that trial coming at me again… even though I know God will provide for me when it crashes into me. It is not a crisis of faith, it is not doubt in the sufficiency of God or confidence that He is at work.
It is simply a troubled heart.
On the one hand, let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in Me (look at John 14). On the other hand, Jesus was so deeply troubled in His soul in the garden that He pleaded with His father for there to be another way… yet, Thy will be done. So there must be non-sinful ways to bear a troubled heart… but I am sinful. And I don’t trust myself to assess the state of my troubled heart, to feel certain that just because I’ve broken doesn’t mean I have failed, that I am not sinfully responding to God’s hand upon me.
And there I sit. I am not through this (and you know how I hate writing about things that I don’t know exactly what I think about, so visualize my writhing as I type), nor are my thoughts finished being formed — that sound of sizzling? Don’t be bothered by it. Just my soul. My emotions and thoughts, like everything else in my life at the moment, remain on the griddle, sizzling away until the Lord lifts me up off the heat. I am holding out, longing for a “Well done, good and faithful servant” and lest there be any confusion — it is only Christ’s work, what He has already done and what He continues to work out in me today, in the trial de jour, that will merit that. But He has promised to give me everything I need for life and godliness.
So this is enough.