...I will hold you in my arms
And joyful be
There will always, always be
A place for you at my table
Return to me -Josh Garrels
My kids love spaghetti. I’ve never been a fan, but I’ve become even less of a fan in recent years at which point tomato-based dishes started causing volcanic-like activity in my chest. I take a little yellow pill daily that promises to help unless I rebelliously partake of something like spaghetti. Still, I decided to make spaghetti on a morning with an already bursting at the seams schedule. It was a Monday morning at that.
And not just any spaghetti, I searched the internet looking for an award-winning recipe; one that would cause my husband and kids to arise and call me blessed.
One recipe I stumbled upon looked similar to the one my friend Kelly uses, in that the sauce has a hint of sweet and it boasts a strong presence of garlic. Most important, the sauce simmers for four hours. That has to be good, right? Proud that my kitchen was slowly starting to smell like oregano and garlic I took a load of clothes out of the dryer and then I stirred the pot. I quickly washed my hair, and then I stirred; certain that every turn of my wooden spoon would bring my family closer to a memorable experience around my table.
Around a quarter until four I popped two loaves of cheese bread into the oven; watching them closely for ten minutes. I wanted to make sure that they came out of the oven right when the edges were beginning to turn golden brown. Our middle kid, Hallie, a spaghetti lover, walked in the front door after work and joyously joined me in the kitchen. So delighted was she that spaghetti was on the menu that she filled the glasses with ice and got out the silverware without so much as a slight eyebrow furrow at having to help after a long day at work.
To make the dish even better I’d made homemade meatballs. My prideful smile was soft but unmistakable as I stirred the spaghetti noodles into the pot that smelled like love (to borrow a phrase from my husband.)
Something unexpected happened as my spoon made its near one thousandth turn around the pot, some six hours later after that first stir. The noodles I’d just added became uncooperative. Rather than marry with the sauce, they selfishly swallowed it up.
I grabbed the ziploc bag of extra sauce I’d already placed in the freezer and offered it up to the one package of noodles in the pot. I silently begged them to do their job and not embarrass me in front of my people; family who’d turned to spectators; critically, and now impatiently, holding their forks.
Defeated, I plopped a gloppy pile of spaghetti in each bowl hoping that the offering of their favorite accompanying bread would add points to a dish that I knew had fallen short of my expectations, and likely theirs too. I hadn’t even made a vegetable to go with it. My table was set with a meal that lacked appeal and nutritional balance. Once again my efforts had fallen dreadfully short in reaching my expectations. Honestly, I silently lamented not getting the outcome (I believe) my efforts deserved.
That seems to be a trend in life; carefully pouring myself into people and projects. I keep a tally on the time spent, passion poured out, and the fight I encounter along the way. I decide what I believe would be a fair result considering the cost I paid. This trend frequently ends in disappointment. Maybe most recently I’m suffering this disenchantment in parenting.
I long for the days when a sippy cup soothed thirst, exhaustion, or a skinned toddler knee. I remember fondly the magic of the youngest’s silk blanky and how scooping my son up in my arms protected him from danger. Him perched on my hip prohibited him from harm and it kept him from making messes, unlike the time I let him walk alongside the shopping cart in HEB. All it took was a slight extension of his chubby arm to send a row of potted plants to the spotless white tile floor, one by one like dominoes.
My soothing power has lost much of its effectiveness. My plots and attempts to scoop them up no longer removes most opportunity for mess or trouble. The truth is it was never about my ability. Every season and every success has been covered in his grace.
Our effort isn't enough to ensure we get what we work for. Our plans don’t always pan out. Our passion alone won’t heal. Our wisdom isn’t capable of holding all the answers. Things can still go awry when we’ve followed the recipe to the best of our ability. Not even the most zealous commitment level is sure to produce the results we desire (no matter how we tend the pot we’ve made ourselves wholly responsible for).
It is often in our most ardent, heartfelt attempts to do right that we’re brought to our knees in humility. We’re reminded that every bit of desire in us to fix and do good (without the grace of God) yields little fruit, if it doesn’t result in downright failure. It’s particularly in the midst of watching our children stumble, that God picks us up and wipes off our knees (or wipes our tears), reminding us that no matter how much we think our children need us, they need Him, and we need Him. Intent on maturing us in our faith, he helps us increasingly realize how little control we have other those things most important to us and those we love the most. He, however, is in control and he has good plans, plans that will work out.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8,9
We’re never so accomplished that we don’t need to be held. Our biggest failure might be not placing our children in the right hands.
May it be Him that we hunger for and may we always acknowledge that it's His table at which we dine.