Looking for goodness in all the wrong places...
Psalm 136:1 “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
Matthew 3:16-17 “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”
Holidays – they have a way of bringing out the worst in me. I had the food planned well and Thanksgiving dinner was served with a flair – tasty and all the dishes arriving hot on the table for twenty one people, fifteen of those being family. Yes, I was rejoicing. I had three of my children home and four of the eight grandchildren present. It really is one of my great pleasures, cooking with my girls and having their little ones swirling around the house.
The day after Thanksgiving’s meal had been carefully planned and the lasagna was waiting in the freezer. It is my tradition to serve something other than turkey the day after, saving the leftovers for the meal on Saturday. We had a fun day planned so I pulled out the lasagna to thaw before we went shopping, congratulating myself that we could “play” today without working too hard on dinner. I even encouraged everyone to go to the park before dinner. I was glad to make the salad, vegetables and bread while the lasagna was in the oven.
They all came back, hungry and ready to eat. My daughters noted I had it all under control and sat down. The younger daughter sat at the counter watching me prepare the garlic bread. “Aren’t you putting too much powder on?” she questioned, adding that she was just asking to learn, “but won’t it be too garlicky?” I immediately felt defensive and decided not to add the garlic salt that I usually add.
I sent everyone to the table and pulled out the lasagna. To my dismay it was not bubbling hot but barely warm. I couldn’t hold off the little ones any longer so decided to serve it anyway. I apologized for the temperature as I served it, feeling very discontent with myself for not getting the timing right. The other daughter asked, “Is there only lettuce and tomatoes in the salad?” as she picked around in it. The discontent in my own soul grew as I watched the other daughter who had questioned my use of garlic powder, salting her bread and I snarled a question to her about the bread not having enough garlic.
Then the oldest daughter laughed about how I said that we had plenty of salad fixings. Now I am really hurt. My cutting retort, “I had carrots but I didn’t have time to add them, since I was doing everything by myself, with no help,” came rolling out of my mouth before I could even think. I tried to cover the harshness of it by making it a joke. “I did it all single handedly,” putting one arm behind my back.
The rest of dinner I felt even worse. I thought I had really wanted her to have a night off from cooking. Felt I was giving her a gift. The vague uneasiness about my motives made me address my daughter with an apology after dinner. “I am sorry that I retaliated my hurt about the salad with those unkind remarks.” We talked about the details for awhile and she asked, “Did you ask me to help with the salad?” I had not.
Later she came downstairs and announced, “I am sorry that I wasn’t grateful that you did the meal by yourself.”
“OK, I forgive you. But that is not what I was hurt about.” I was still wanting to believe that I had been glad to do the meal by myself. Wasn’t that my gift of love to her?
God was getting my attention. Why was I so disgruntled? Why couldn’t I offer grace to my daughters? Why could I not receive His forgiveness to cover my mistakes in the kitchen? I began to recognize that I was desperately trying to be good. It was starting to come to the surface that I want to be a good mom, a good mother-in-law, a good grandma, a good cook, a good wife, a good daughter. That is the only way to keep everyone (including God) pleased with me.
As I read Psalm 136:1 the next morning it began to dawn on me. I have a whole set of rules in my mind to make me good in each area. To be a good cook the meal needs to come to the table hot. To be a good mom I need to give my daughter with four children a break. The lists go on and on. No wonder I am not receiving grace. I have made up my own gospel.
God’s Spirit reminded me of His words about Jesus, “My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” I had forgotten that all the goodness of Jesus has been transferred to me and that I, clothed in Jesus’ righteousness, am well-pleasing to the Father. With relief I looked at Psalm 136:1 and began to thank Him that He is good. I don’t have to achieve goodness on my own. He is good. And His steadfast, forever love for me comes from His goodness, not my need to be good.
I later shared this with my daughter and acknowledged to her that her apology was dead on. I had wanted her gratefulness in order to confirm my goodness. I had fooled myself into believing that I was giving her a break from cooking because of love for her when really it was to accomplish my goal of being a “good” mother and thus deserving her and everyone’s and then ultimately, God’s good pleasure with me. Another episode of me trying to get my cup filled with love in the wrong way, the wrong place. Thank You, my Father, for showing me the truth.