On a cool afternoon, I set out a bowl and gathered the ingredients to make cookies and I am reminded of the ingredients needed to nurture faith. The cookie recipe card is old and worn, dog-eared and stained. It reads:
1 C. sugar
1 C. brown sugar
1 C. butter (softened)
1 C. oil
1 T. milk
1 t. cream of tartar
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
4 C. flour
1 pkg. chocolate chips
Mix ingredients well. Bake at 350 degrees for 9 to 12 minutes.
I know this process well. In the quiet of the kitchen, the batter comes together in the way it has before. I know that not one step can be overlooked, not one ingredient omitted. I know the way the house will smell during baking, the way the cookies will taste, the way my children will smile when they see a plate of freshly baked goodies waiting after school. The predictability is comforting.
And yet, there are dangers to work against. My oven heats unevenly. I know this. And when warming up, it always heats far hotter than the desired temperature, making it necessary to wait for it to cool a bit before beginning to make my cookies. I have to plan for this or batches will be burnt, unusable.
And as my wooden spoon, handle smoothed from use, turns inside this cobalt bowl, I am struck by how like cookie baking my parenting can be. These days I spend raising children may feel unpredictable and unsure, but there are filled with ingredients that make a difference, habits to instill, and lessons to mix that matter in the outcome of their lives.
And I cannot help but notice that while the chocolate chips provide the bursts of flavor, it is the flour, the only ingredient that is not measured with a 1, that will hold all the rest together. It is the flour that will incorporate the sugars, that will bring in the egg, that will distribute the baking soda. The flour will hold it all together so that what comes out of my oven looks and tastes like our favorite cookie.
As I scoop the dough onto well-worn cookie sheets,I think on the ingredients of successful parenting:
All of these practices—becomes the flour of our simple lives. It is not enough to feed this family, to clothe them, to love them. It is not enough. These children need more.
They need the ingredient that will bring it all together and help them to form a life that rests on faith, faith that has been tested and tried and nurtured and mixed into the everyday moments of their ordinary lives. In this way, I am offering them a way to maneuver and grow through the dangers I know will come.
I open the door to the oven and slide the cookie sheet in. After cleaning the counters, I sit and wait for the time to slip by. On the counter sits the recipe card, old and worn. I know the process by heart, but I use the recipe just the same. To be exact. To be sure.
Also on the counter, my Bible sits. My hands have turned these same pages for decades as I seek truth to hold together the details of my days. I turn to it to be sure, to remember again the way to stay strong. I turn to it to learn because all these years later, God’s Word still teaches me. And these living lessons are gifts that I must give my children. So many familiar words, but returning and reading again is what I need and what they need, too.
The scent that wafts from my open oven door is sweet. 2 Corinthians 2:15 tells us, "For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing." And I know this is my calling: to be the aroma of Christ so that others might come to delight in their savior.
In the quiet of the afternoon, I breathe deeply and remember. All of it matters. And as I raise these children, I am reminded that all ingredients are not equal. I must love, discipline, feed, and clothe the little ones in my care. But I must offer more. As I nurture the faith in my children, I must offer the grace that was given to me, the ingredient that has marked my days and made me the parent He has created me to be.
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster
Rev. Travis Jamieson