A couple of years ago I gave a workshop to classical educators on the depiction of food and eating in literature. I’m pretty sure I was the only presenter at that conference to begin her talk by passing out homemade chocolate chip cookies. Did it work? You bet! What better way to demonstrate that a shared meal can build connections and turn strangers into friends!
Baking cookies is not something foreign to me. At one point I thought my career path would include a combination of cooking and journalism. I interned at a cooking school in college and was one of the first people I knew to have her wedding registry at a cooking store. Who needs china? I got a pasta maker! All five of my children have worked in the food industry at one point or another. From baristas to bakers; café servers to ice cream scoopers; purveyors of pitas, pasta, and pastry—they’ve done it all. Actually they are all pretty savvy in the kitchen which makes family dinners a lot of fun!
It probably comes as no surprise that the bumper sticker on my car reads “Love People. Cook them tasty food.” But wait a minute! Shouldn’t we disabuse ourselves of this dangerous notion that food equals love? Am I actually proposing that we hearken back to some prehistoric idea that “a woman’s place is in the kitchen”? Well no. And maybe.
Sacrifice in Cooking
Since this blog is directed to women, I’m going to assume that everyone reading this is responsible for feeding someone, even if that person is you. Our bodies might be finite, broken, and sometimes unreliable, but these earthen vessels need to be fed. It’s right and normal that we do so. And if we happen to be in charge of the care of tiny humans, it’s even more important. If we need to eat anyway, and the Lord has gifted us with senses and taste buds, we can enjoy his good gifts!
As women who are called to be helpers, nurturers, and life-givers, I believe we can approach even something like cooking with the intent to bring glory to God. We can do this through sacrifice and service.
Are there sacrifices involved in food prep? (Do I even need to ask this question?) Without a doubt we will give of our time, money, talent, energy, focus, and knowledge in order to do something as seemingly simple as put meatloaf and mashed potatoes on the table. (Note: No guilt here! Your meal may have come pre-packaged and delivered to your door or you may have peeled every last potato. The point is, there is a cost.) Where do we get this idea that loving people means laying down our life for them? Where indeed! Whether you are someone who has been “made to bake and when you bake you feel God’s pleasure” (sorry Eric Liddell!) or someone who is ok with “heat and serve”, sometimes we put ourselves last for the good of those we love.
Putting ourselves last doesn’t mean we get to lord it over our family or guests. I’m not advocating an aproned army proclaiming “Eat! Eat!” This post is not about pushing anything down anyone’s throat. Rather, are we so reluctant to associate feeding with love and care that we are missing out on one of God’s most beautiful illustrations? As Christ himself sacrificed and laid down his life, he did so that we might truly understand that he is the bread of life, that we need hunger no longer, that his drawing a people to himself means that we can sit at his table as family and friends, not enemies far off. Yes, as a Christ-follower you do have a place at his table! Take and eat.
Service in Cooking
In addition to cooking as sacrificial act, there is also a beautiful element of service. If my dinner preparations are only to call attention to myself, or my abilities, I’ve sorely missed the point. Let me offer an example. Have you ever prepared a meal for someone with allergies? For a mother growing a little one—either inside or out? How about a teenager competing in athletics? We have plenty of opportunities to show others that we care for them as we consider their special needs. The offering of a meal is about meeting them where they are. Have you ever looked at the Lord’s Supper this way? What if one of the reasons we are called to partake of this special meal is that God knows our needs. He knows what we need to grow and thrive and flourish and he wants to make sure we don’t miss out! Take and eat!
One of my favorite Valentine’s memories is the annual treasure hunt my mom put together for my two brothers and I. We never got tired of hunting for clues and racing through the house to find the prize at the end: a heart-shaped, pink-frosted cake. Mom’s sacrifice and service ensured that three little kids had a fun celebration.
Sacrificial love doesn’t take away from our life, it adds to it. There is joy to be found in loving others well. There is delight to be had in finding ways to celebrate. There is goodness at hand when we rely on the Lord and his grace to do so.
God prepares a meal for us. His sacrifice meets our needs. But even this regular earthly celebration is only a shadow, only a picture of the celebration to come, the meal that will end all meals: the marriage supper of the lamb. Imagine the love that will be present around that table! Imagine the joy of true, heavenly communion!
About the Author:
Renee Mathis attends Christ Church PCA in Katy, Texas. She serves on the women’s ministry team, as a regional advisor for the PCA women’s ministry, and an advisory board member for Covenant College. When she’s not enjoying her 5 children and 7 grandchildren, she teaches English, reads books, and drinks coffee.