Ingredients For Life

Tonight, while making dinner, I realized that following a recipe is a lot like our journey through life. At first, it can feel a little overwhelming, but we just have to begin. We gather what we have and lay it out on the table. We aren’t sure about the end result and realize we can’t do everything at once (even the best chefs can’t manage that). Instead, we move through it one step at a time. 

The recipe might display a picture of the finished dish, but we don’t have the luxury of knowing in advance how our time here will play out. Wouldn’t it be nice to know in advance the precise mixture to avoid missteps, eradicate fear, and create a perfect life? We may not be handed an exact recipe, but we do have some choices regarding which ingredients we use.

Some reach for ingredients like money, degrees, friendships, or pets. Others may seek out adventure, travel, hobbies, or volunteering. While these are wonderful spices to add to life, fragrant blessings to breathe in, they shouldn’t be all there is to the mixture. If they are, the recipe will be incomplete, void of the most needed ingredient.

All the friends, toys, or travel, all the goals reached or time given for a good cause can still leave us feeling empty. If not empty, our life may not be nearly as flavourful or nourishing as it could be. No person or passion can fully satisfy our hunger. Too often we leave out the critical ingredient to our life’s mixture.

We make all the plans, go to all the places, eat all the fancy foods, but disregard the One who created everything as far as the eye can see. In our flurry to consume all we can, we overlook the most important ingredient in the recipe for life—we overlook God. 

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We can never ingest enough of the world’s offerings, however decadent, to make us feel full. We may listen to all the epicurean gurus, devour every good thing, add all the spices, but our lives continue to taste bland. The truth is, we often don’t even know what’s missing until we add the most important One. Only then do we wonder how we could have gone on so long never experiencing this integral ingredient—relationship with God.

For me, knowing God made all the difference. He substituted some of the ingredients I was using making the mixture exceedingly better. Even with Him, I can’t manage to concoct a perfect life, but at least I have help and guidance on the journey. Connected to Him, my taste buds have changed. Many of the delicacies I used to enjoy no longer seem quite so sweet, but the important ones taste so much better. 

With Him, I have access to ingredients such as joy, peace, and love, and others such as patience, kindness, and compassion. He hasn’t given me a whole recipe card to follow, no step-by-step guide to the perfect life, but He has given me His Word, the Bible, which helps me to navigate life. He’s also promised to never leave me. His presence has been profoundly encouraging and comforting through the difficult bits. Mess-ups still occur, but He helps me to throw out the rotten stuff and start over.

At the end of my life, I trust that whatever God helped me make will be life-giving. That the things He was a part of will nourish others and give them strength for their journey. I know I will not get away with holding out my own concoctions, however exquisite or pleasing to the eye. The only hope in heaven I’ll have is Jesus, the One who God gave to preserve us forever with Him.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. ~ Psalm 23:6

Hole in the Hedge

ShearsFrom the few memories of my early childhood in England, I recall we had a hedge framing our front garden. My father meticulously maintained that hedge with handheld trimmers. I recall him being rather dismayed about a hole in the hedge that neighbouring children used to climb through. As long as kids made a habit of playing in this leafless passage, the hole would be perpetually maintained. 

What about our lives? Where is the hole in our hedge? An area where we’ve repeatedly let in such things as bitterness, fearfulness, or anger? Maybe that area is so frequented by unchecked thinking that a gaping hole has formed. Anything that becomes a habit treads a well-worn path. In the case of negative or destructive thought patterns, the habitual cycle can be detrimental to both ourselves and others.  

Unlike my father’s hedge, we can choose that which we allow passage through the perimeters of our lives. We can cut off fruitless patterns of thinking and deny them entry into our thought life. However, with our jam-packed lives, we’re often distracted. We leave little space for reflective contemplation and instead snatch fleeting fast-food bites on the fly. The quality and quantity of the life-giving morsels we consume are often not enough to fully nourish or protect us.

If we fail to examine those thoughtless meanderings before we let them in, they lead to well-worn openings of fruitless behaviour and thought patterns. If we don’t set aside time to examine our thinking and replace toxic thoughts with “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8), we leave our lives wide open to hedge-holes.

hedge-hole

Holes in hedges can develop anytime we let in bitterness and refuse to forgive. They take shape when we allow impatience and anger to proliferate. They evolve when we compare and grow dissatisfied opening the door to envy and jealousy. They become firmly formed when we repeatedly choose fear over faith. They grow distinctly larger when we settle into sin.

Ignoring hedge holes won’t make them disappear. Managing them takes a concerted effort and proper maintenance requires taking a firm grip on our thought life and conforming it to God’s. 2 Corinthians 10:5 encourages us to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Make no mistake, we have a choice regarding our thought permeations. 

hedge

We prevent holes by cutting off the flow of thoughts at the gate, discerning whether they deserve to pass through, and aligning our thinking to God’s. We combat hedge holes by setting aside time, disciplining ourselves to reflect and be renewed in God’s presence. When we spend time soaking in God’s word, he fills the holes, packing them with his peace. His Spirit quickens us and helps us to grow in discernment regarding that which we allow to enter through the perimeter of our lives. Soon, where once there were holes, we see new growth and lush foliage—composed of God’s love—encircling us.

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  1. Where do you notice hedge holes in your life?
  2. How can you adjust your thinking to align with Christ’s?

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