Where does God fit in to this little weekly baking session? Well, it all goes back to last week at Bible study. Though the number of girls who attend varies, we are always sure about two things: we will eat something delicious and we will study/question/read/wonder about the book of Malachi. I picked up the study, called Blemished, in a Lifeway bookstore on my way out of Indianapolis (I can thank God for that ridiculously confusing 420 loop). It initially caught my eye because Malachi is the last words God spoke before going silent for 400 years. That's a long time. As I leafed through the pages, I felt like it would be a good balance of studying Scripture (only 4 chapters in the whole book) and discussion. And what could be more relevant than prophecy about the failings of the church? So many students here are jaded toward the idea of church as an institution because it is either heaped in tradition or it is a parade of hypocrites.
So, fast forward to last week. It was only our third week meeting officially because of all the chaos down here, so we're making slow progress. But last week, we talked about what it means to be rebuked (we have had some AMAZING discussion!). This is, of course, what God commanded Malachi to do to the Israelite people, specifically the priests. They had become quite cavalier with their sacrifices and God sent Malachi to let them know so.
So, our discussion moved into the idea of sacrifices... what is acceptable and pleasing to the Lord? Why wasn't the Lord satisfied with what the priests were bringing? How could they even know what He wanted in the first place?
All of these questions led us around in circles. An analogy sprang to mind and it came in two parts - both about gifts... here it is:
1. You make a wonderful batch of cookies, using the best recipe. They are all coming out of the oven deliciously, except that your oven cooks unevenly... so there are a few "reject" cookies that you set aside. You don't want your friends to have to eat those - they taste like char! But, being the good person you are (and having all the starving children of the world on your mind), you don't want to waste them either. So, on your way to the party you spot a dreadfully hungry-looking homeless man. You deposit the charred chocolate chip cookies in his hand and kindly bless him in God's name.
2. Your friend (best friend in the whole whole wide world) is about to have a birthday. You can't even describe your love for this friend. This person has been a constant - through breakups and prom dates and divorces and graduations and first interviews. This person is pretty much the best thing you've got, so you want to make his/her birthday the MOST SPECIAL-EST ever (he/she is even great enough to warrant bad grammar!). So, you think and think and think about what would be the best gift .. and then you finally reason that he/she would probably want a dozen batches of your favorite homemade cookies, because that's what you would want for your birthday. You go about and make the plans and you work day and night until his/her birthday finally arrives. The day comes and the birthday happens. Your friend is happy... but not really in the way you thought he/she would be.
In the course of our discussion (which for the purpose of the analogy was all about cookies), I felt a little light bulb illuminate my tiny brain, "WHAT IF GOD DOESN'T LIKE COOKIES?"
We had been talking about sacrifices and gifts and what is pleasing to the Lord. The priests earned a stern rebuke for bringing blemished, crippled lambs to the altar - their castoffs and charred chocolate chip cookies. God saw the hearts behind the sacrifice and was grieved. If the priests really, really, really loved God and wanted to please Him, then they would have to KNOW HIM. I don't know how many times I passed by homeless people in Chicago and gave them leftovers before I finally realized that giving leftovers was no sacrifice at all. It's giving my best - the real $15 meal of the homeless person's choice - now that would be something.
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:Living as children of the light means we can and should find out what the Lord desires of us, not what we want to give to Him. Just because I want to give him an hour in the morning, does that mean it is best or pleases Him? Is it the best hour I have in the day? Or is it my charred cookie remains?
"Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you."
Sometimes I feel like I tell God, "Well, this is my best for the day.. kind of .. or at least it's what is available... or it's what I would want if I were God. Here, just take these cookies... they are really good, even if they do give you a tummy ache. It may not be my best but it's pretty good. ... I hope you like it, because that's what I'm giving you today. You're getting sleepy hours between 4:30-6am and you're getting sentence prayers throughout the day. I hope that's what you like, God. It's pretty good, right?"
I know - I should be embarrassed to share that and I am a little bit. All week that question has been running through my head... what if God doesn't like cookies?
What if all this time I thought he wanted what I wanted to give?
I am starting to think what He wants is splendidly different.
I'm scared to say I'm going to find out, because the rebuking road is not easy.