A while back I read a story of a visiting pastor who attended a men’s breakfast in the middle of a rural farming area of the country. The group had asked an older farmer, decked out in bib overalls, to say grace for the morning breakfast.
“Lord, I hate buttermilk“, the farmer began. The visiting pastor opened one eye to glance at the farmer and wonder where this was going.
The farmer loudly proclaimed, “Lord, I hate lard.” Now the pastor was growing concerned.
Without missing a beat, the farmer continued, “And Lord, you know I don’t much care for raw white flour”. The pastor once again opened an eye to glance around the room and saw that he wasn’t the only one beginning to feel uncomfortable.
Then the farmer added, “But Lord, when you mix them all together and bake them, I do love them fresh baked biscuits. So Lord, when things come up that we don’t like, when life gets hard, when we don’t understand what you’re saying to us, help us to just relax and wait until you are done mixing. It will probably be even better than biscuits. Amen.”
While I don’t know the origins of that story, or whether or not it’s even a true account of any particular experience, I do know that the message in this simple story resonates with my soul. A friend of mine recently shared it with me on a day when I was definitely feeling “restless”. Not only had I grown weary of the ongoing realities of the pandemic of 2020, but I also had become somewhat disillusioned by the elevated racial tensions currently raging in our country and the seemingly endless protests in our city. So much of what was going on all around me seemed to be out of my control……and I didn’t like it!
Restlessness is often the by-product of an uncomfortable change. Our normal routines are disrupted with the introduction of some elements that previously weren’t in the mix. Their presence changes the “recipe” for our daily life. The ultimate goal remains the same, but now we have to find ways to incorporate these new elements somehow into the mix without comprising the desired outcome.
The fact is, there is a tangible degree of comfort in our normal routines. We know what to expect, how to act, who we answer to, where our input is needed, and why those things are important. There are predictable boundaries that regulate our behavior and systematic rewards for staying within the confines of those routines. Discomfort comes when we move outside of those boundaries, whether by choice or necessity.
Right now it would seem much of the world around us is moving outside of the established boundaries of normalcy. While those routines differ greatly from person to person, community to community, or country to country, whatever was “normal” is no longer “normal” in most places right now! The pandemic of 2020 has created worldwide economic upheaval. Protestors in the streets of many cities in our country are creating chaos and perhaps hurting their cause more than helping it. Long established service industries and non-profits, including churches, are having to redefine who they are and how they will operate. Individuals, schools and businesses around the globe have been forced into online interaction rather than face-to-face encounters. A new vocabulary has taken root and brought with it a dramatic shift in how the culture at large is adapting to this “new normal”.
The whole experience is unsettling, creating this sense of corporate anxiety, no matter who you are or where you live. A pervasive spirit of “restlessness” seems to be encompassing most of those around us. There are questions we cannot answer, problems that we don’t how to resolve, and wounded, battle-weary warriors from the front lines of life surrounding us on every side.
Like that old farmer in the story, I don’t really like some of the things God has allowed to be thrown into His recipe for my life lately. More than once I’ve found myself complaining about the mix of ingredients He’s chosen and offering Him my own preferred alternate choices. After all, who knows me better than me? If He would just listen to me I’m sure we could work this whole thing out, right?
Writing those sentences seems ludicrous to even me! Who am I to tell the Ruler of the Universe how to run my life? The ultimate reality is that God knows best and sees things from a much different perspective than I ever could. I get restless when my routines are interrupted, but He always seems to be looking ahead beyond those routines. My faith in His leadership, at times, is woefully lacking. The restlessness I feel is more a reflection of my own desire to be in control rather than whatever may be happening in the actual situation.
That old farmer had gained a bit of wisdom through the experiences of his life. He knew that some things don’t make sense in and of themselves. Sometimes those individual ingredients have to be mixed with other things to produce a desired outcome. Each ingredient turns out to be an essential part of the final product. I cannot deny the logic of his argument. In fact, I can almost taste those buttermilk biscuits!
If I extrapolate that truth to my own life things begin to make a lot more sense. There have been a multitude of twists and turns in my life that birthed a season of restlessness and anxiety. I know what it means to worry about finances, or be stressed over the health of a loved one. I’ve dealt with the pressure of walking through a personal crisis, handled times of disappointment or rejection, disagreed with the actions others, faced moments of deep self-doubt, and struggled to overcome a personal failure. I have been angered by the decisions of politicians, let down by church leaders, betrayed by close friends, and frustrated by the senseless violence in my community. These are all undeniable ingredients in my life, whether I like them or not! Yet, somehow, they will all have a role in the final outcome of God’s recipe. How is that possible?
Guess what? That’s the way it is for all of us. All the wonderful, good things in life are expertly mixed together by our Heavenly Father with all the difficult, anxiety-ridden things to create something amazing …..like buttermilk biscuits…….IF WE LET HIM BE THE COOK! On our own we can’t make sense of it all, nor should we really even try. Rather, we need to entrust ourselves to God and let Him figure out how to make something good out of all those crazy experiences we encounter in life. I don’t really understand how it all works, but I’m beginning to realize more and more that I don’t have to understand it all to get the benefit of His expertise.
These are certainly restless times! It seems our country, and the world around us, is grappling with a number of life-altering issues all at once. In such seasons there could be a tendency to become cynical, and even critical, about the direction things are heading. But I don’t think that solves anything. Our restless spirits will not be quieted by constantly complaining to others, ranting on social media, withdrawing from society, or simply aligning ourselves with a cause of our choice. Real peace can only be found in healthy relationships with God, yourself and others. If we get that right our restless hearts will be stilled and we will be able to move forward through any circumstance with an assurance of faith and a clear sense of direction.
I admit it…..I just don’t like the way things are going! It seems like we’re heading down a path that can only lead to more division, destruction, and decay. But in the midst of it all I have this calm conviction that none of this has taken God by surprise. I may not have any answers, but I think He does! Even now I believe He is orchestrating circumstances that will help us make sense of the chaos and confusion all around us. I may not understand what He’s doing, but I’ve learned enough through the years to trust that He’s got this!
So, bring out the bib overalls (I actually used to own a pair) and listen to the wisdom on the old farmer who loved those buttermilk biscuits. Let his prayer become our prayer in this turbulent year:
“So Lord, when things come up that we don’t like, when life gets hard, when we don’t understand what you’re saying to us, help us to just relax and wait until you are done mixing. It will probably be even better than biscuits. Amen!”