Once in college I decided to cook red beans and rice for my roommates. These days that's a meal I could cook in my sleep, but back then it felt like A Project. I shopped and cooked and chopped onions and peeled garlic and when it was just about time to eat I tasted a spoonful.
If my oldest son had been there he would have said, "This tastes like sadness and despair." It tasted like nothing. It tasted like bleakness. It dawned on me that I had not salted the beans, and although I did not expect a big difference I added salt to the pot. And behold: angels sang, taste buds danced, and I sighed with relief.
Salt -- who knew?
I think about that moment whenever I hear the salt-of-the-earth gospel: I think about how in Christ we can be most authentically ourselves. It's been on my mind this winter-- maybe as I've been thinking over the fears that I was just blogging about, and trying to balance my ingrained fear of rejection against my conviction that God has good work for me to do in this position, and so I need to do it with the closest approximation of fearlessness that I can muster. (That clause needs to be smacked around with the cyber-version of a blue pencil, but I think I am going to focus on getting this written rather than getting it edited.)
Three specific stories:
1. It is too cold for our older car to start. Elwood and Alex take the van, leaving me to walk Stella down to preschool. It's only half a mile, but she doesn't like the cold and she doesn't like walking, and there's no way to push the stroller in this much snow. I am tempted to succumb to dread and hand-wringing, but I resolve to make the best of it. We have the nicest walk. We are polar explorers. We are brave lumberjacks. We make it to school with nary a tear shed, and I walk home happy for the time together. On the way home I keep seeing her little bootprints, and they stir up such tender thoughts for me. I think about her golden hair and her little girl voice and how much I love to see her smile. I think about how much I want her to know that she is loved. I am almost home when I see one of my own bootprints, right behind hers, and I am swamped with a surge of knowing: God loves me like that, only more so.
2. This winter I remembered something I hadn't thought about in years. When I was a kid my parents were convinced that my hair could be persuaded to lie down flat if I just kept at it. The reality is that my hair doesn't do flat; it doesn't do lying down. I have crazy curly fountains of hair, and my life got a lot easier when I accepted that it would never be sleek. The memory was of a high school retreat, in which I discovered on arrival that I'd forgotten my hairbrush. I didn't know anyone there, and I felt awkward about borrowing a brush, so I just let it curl for the first time ever. I remember seeing my silhouette, with ringlets shooting off in all directions, and feeling simultaneously awkward and pleased. That was the weekend when I first encountered God as a Person, and just a couple of weeks ago it occurred to me that the timing made perfect sense: God as a Person made us to be persons. To be real. (Not that you can't be real if you brush your hair. I fear I am sacrificing sense for speed here.)
3. Last night my oldest took the younger kids to the Lego movie, and Elwood and I went out together for some adult conversation. We had this moment in the car that feels too intimate for me to describe here (a completely non-sexual kind of intimate, but so tender and goofy and hilarious that I want to keep it close), and as I was laughing almost too hard to steer Elwood said something that he says more often than I deserve. He said, "Oh, Jamie, I love being married to you." And it occurred to me that marriage is a powerful metaphor for Christ and the Church in part because marriage is about being known, inside and out, and loved anyway.