By Alison Andreasen
I used to love to cook. As a newlywed and as someone who did not have much experience cooking, I loved learning how to create something edible out of ingredients that are not considered tasty on their own. I enjoyed trying new recipes, I was thrilled to hone my skills, and I reveled in making something that my husband devoured. The latter task wasn’t hard as he seemed to love everything I fixed--except for one peanut butter, cinnamon, and chicken dish. That was just gross.
Soon I found myself at the stage where I attempted to cook everything I could from scratch. Bread, gravy, coffee creamer, yogurt--you name it, I made it from scratch. Did you know you can even make sweetened condensed milk from more basic ingredients? Been there, done that. I often dreamed of supermarkets filled with only basic essentials and where you couldn’t buy pre-made tortillas even if you wanted to.
Fast forward ten years and three kids with another in the oven (haha, get it?!?) and cooking has become less than exciting to me. That’s putting it nicely. Some days I flat out dread it. Part of the struggle is that it is a job that never ends. Hour after hour and day after day more cooking needs to happen to fill the little mouths that need sustenance. Another reason I despise it is that there is just not enough time in the day to do it all. I have resorted to buying premade groceries a lot more than I ever thought I would and to heating up frozen meals that I can pull out at a moment’s notice.
Then there is the question of whether the little people I cook for will even eat what I cook. Although my older children know that complaining about the food gets your plate taken away and a free trip to your room, there are still occasional sighs of disdain when the plates are set before them. The toddler will eat when he feels like it. And after slaving away in the kitchen for at least 30 minutes, the meal is done after five. Then it is clean up time, which means I have to to get my big, pregnant, tired self out of the chair and go into the kitchen yet again. Thankfully the kids carry their plates to the sink and help clear the table, and the hubby helps whenever he isn’t roughhousing with the toddler just to keep him out of the kitchen, but I have to admit there seems to be a hint of vanity in the whole thing.
It’s enough to make me say with the writer of Ecclesiastes, “Vanity, vanity, everything is vanity.” The dishwasher needs to be unloaded. The pots need to be scrubbed. The spills can’t dry on the floor because they will be 10 times harder to scrub off when they dry. The meat for the next meal needs to start thawing, grocery lists need to be made, on and on, over and over, never ending.
Here is something Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a well known Lutheran theologian and writer who died at Hitler’s command just before World War II ended, wrote in his book Life Together, in the section titled “The Fellowship of the Table” that those of us who are fried from cooking might find renewing:
“The fellowship acknowledges that all earthly gifts are given to it only for Christ’s sake, as this whole world is sustained only for the sake of Jesus Christ, his Word, and his message. He is the true bread of life. He is not only the giver but the gift itself, for whose sake all earthly gifts exist. Only because the message concerning Jesus Christ must still go forth and find believers, and because our task is not yet perfected, does God in His patience continue to sustain us with His good gifts.”
Not only is Christ the provider of the food we are given, but He is also the reason for it! His words need to be spoken to people by people, and people can’t talk if they don’t have energy to do so. Coffee is good at providing energy, but it doesn’t come close to providing the nourishment that healthy, satisfying food can provide.
There is someone in your household that has the job of feeding the others. Perhaps it is you. It is a tiring, draining, often thankless job. But let us not grow weary of thanking the Lord that he has given us food for today, and let us remember that the purpose of food is to give our family members energy so that they can share the Gospel with those around them. When we think about kids, this purpose is even grander. Not only do they have the vocations of friend, sibling, and child in which they have opportunities to talk about Jesus, but at this very moment they are growing and learning for future vocations. These little bodies we are feeding aren’t going to stay small forever! One day they will be fathers and mothers, pastors and teachers, co-workers and neighbors who share the Gospel with those around them. In a small, yet important way, the food the Lord has given us to feed them is contributing to the healthy bodies we hope they have as adults. Healthy bodies and brains make a great vessel for the Lord to dwell in and work through as they speak God’s word to people and take care of others the Lord will put in their care.
Bonhoeffer’s words give me great encouragement to make the most of the opportunity I have as the cook in the family to nourish the bodies that contain the brains, mouths, and hands that God has given my family to praise and give testimony of our God. My prayer is that you would glean a little encouragement as well.
Cook on my sisters!
Alison is a wife of one, mother of three, and teacher of many. She lives in rural South Dakota where she enjoys life on the prairie as a dual parish pastor’s wife. A trained Lutheran school teacher and homeschooling mom, she has a passion for children’s education, especially education in the Christian faith. She is a brainstormer by nature and those who are close to her never know what new idea she will think of next. Recent adventures with her family have included tapping trees to make syrup; creating, expanding, and selling her own granola business; and learning to preserve fresh garden goodness for year-round use.