(Warning. These are random thoughts being typed out in an attempt to coalesce them for the service this Sunday!)
I like to read cookbooks. I will often sit down with a cup of tea and peruse my latest Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver seeking culinary delights.
The trouble with cookbooks though is that the recipes often cover over the difficulty of the actual task and make the fiendishly difficult seem easily obtainable. For me, for a long time it was omelets. For years they always came out scrambled. To see how I finally overcame this debilitating culinary condition read here.
I quickly learned that reading the recipe is not the same as cooking the dish.
Sometimes the recipe has to be modified because of the conditions I am cooking in or the nature of the ingredients. I have a recipe for a Blue Cheese and Walnut bread that I have made many times over the years. One thing I've noticed is that it takes a different amount of flour to get the dough to the correct consistency at different times. The brand of the flour and the humidity of the kitchen all play a part. Those of you who have ever tried to make meringue on a humid day know what I'm talking about.
Sometimes it is very difficult to make it work in life the way it works on paper.
I often heard the bible referred to almost like a cookbook. Bible = Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. The idea is that if you just know what the bible says and what verses to read and apply you can get through anything. I used to believe this too.
Spiritual Formation is more than just memorizing 'Biblical Recipes'. I've tried applying bible verses to my life like band aids on a wound. I've 'Sprayed a little Jesus' over my life without ever dealing with the insides. The bible was never intended to be 'God's Little Instruction Book for Life'. It is a rich complex book full of diverse styles of Literature ranging from Narrative to Poetry. To make it some kind of Instruction Manual does disservice to it.
Also, we are complex, diverse people, everyone unique. To make our spiritual lives about reguritating scripture in a 'One Size fits all' mentality does disservice to the wonderful creations God made us to be.
Reading the recipe is not cooking.
Learning the book is not living the life.
As I've sat with this idea over the last few days and even as I've sat at my computer and begun to process my thoughts by typing I've discovered some anger that I didn't know was there. I want to throw the anger outwards and blame others for it, but the truth is it was I who bought into this simplistic view of the spiritual life. It was I who was afraid to question. And it is I who is growing.
Sometimes the dough needs more flour than the recipe says to reach the right consistency, sometimes it needs less. The specifics change but the goal remains constant.
I see in my life how I've been afraid to let go of 'specifics', thinking them somehow more important than the goal.