A few weeks ago some of us did this funny thing where we all brought a random ingredient to church, and then cooked a meal with it. If this sounds like a fun, whimsical kind of thing to do, this is only because you weren’t the person in charge, and also that I’ve told you the end of the story (i.e. we cooked a meal). In fact, I approached the evening with a degree of trepidation and a good dose of shaky faith, partly because I didn’t even know who would show up.
One by one, people emerged through the door with an ingredient in hand. Steve brought three turnips, Esmeralda brought a loaf of bread, Nathaniel brought an array of goodies from the bottom of his fridge. John placed a tin of peaches on the table and the other Steve pulled out a packet of caramelised olives he’d bought at an Asian supermarket. Someone brought a Woolworths chocolate mud cake, which I don’t think was technically an ingredient, but nobody complained.
We got slicing and dicing, and ended up with roasted turnip, sweet potato and caramelised olives on a bed of shredded lettuce, accompanied by roasted capsicum and tomato. We found some grape juice in the fridge and shared the Lord’s Supper, using Esmeralda’s bread. And dessert? Tinned peaches served on chocolate mud cake.
I tried to do some structured conversation, but the real joy was sharing an abundant feast out of a myriad of little, seemingly random gifts, all brought quite humbly to the table. The meal was an embodiment of the Kingdom of God. Better to relish in it, rather than talk about it.
I’m not always that good at letting go, at giving up control. Maybe I need to do meals like this more often. It was an exercise in trust – that something good WILL happen, even if I haven’t planned it out in advance. I’m also starting to wonder whether over-planning and refusal to give up control actually inhibits good things happening.
Structure and control aren’t bad things in themselves. God can be found within tight boardroom agendas or pre-organised travel plans, or highly structured church services. But God will disappear if we insist on dividing our lives into 15-minute pre-arranged calendar slots, or if we never let the road take us somewhere unexpected, to meet someone we never imagined existed. There’s a wild, boundless energy out there, and it is the incubator for new life. We gotta let some of that stuff into our lives!
The other thing that’s happened lately is that I’ve become exceedingly busy. My role at Urban Seed is growing, and for the first time in a long time I’m taking on significant responsibility. I never would have predicted this, but this new responsibility has actually forced me to give up control. I have realised that I can’t actually do – or even have my head around – everything that is in my ambit of responsibility, without getting sick and/or going mad. I have been forced to let go.
It’s a giddy feeling. On Wednesday I’m running a grant-writing workshop. I thought I had to write all the grants myself, and was stressing that I couldn’t do that. Then my friend and colleague Sarah said, “Why don’t you run a workshop?” I thought, “No.” Then I thought, “Actually, maybe.” I asked people if they wanted to learn how to write a grant, and about 15 people said, “Yes please!!!” So on Wednesday a bunch of us will be taking what grant-writing gifts we have, and humbly putting them on the table. We’re going to see what kind of meal will emerge.
I’m approaching this with a fairly strong degree of trepidation, and some quite shaky faith. But that meal we cooked the other week was really yummy, and fun, and meaningful – so this gives me hope.