Before I get into this, I want to give you an update about my search for a new church. For the past four weeks, I’ve been attending the same one. I’ve even made a new friend who has so much in common with me it’s spooky (in that hand of G-d sort of way). It was a good experience for me to have gone exploring. I met some really cool people. I learned from some great pastors. I even went to church in a temple. (It was weirdly wonderful to know the ark was right there with the Torah inside. It was like a secret between me and G-d as I sat there.) Most importantly, I figured out where I wanted to be and what kind of church I wanted to be in.
After all those years of “why this church,” I got it: I don’t want to go to a church every Sunday where the person in front of me agrees 100% with my world view. I don’t want to sit there thinking, “yes, that’s what I think.” ”yes, I know that already.” How does that help me grow? Where is the challenge? Where is the learning? I much prefer to hear sermons that make me think, “huh… that’s new.” or “I never thought of it like that.” and sometimes…. “um… no! sorry. I can’t go there.” Because those are the times that I grow. I don’t want it to be so easy that I don’t get value out of it. I want to be challenged from time to time. I want the unexplainable to be part of my experience of G-d, and I want to be around other people who are not frightened by. So I guess it’s not surprising that my new church is the same type of church as my old one. After all that, I was where I belonged in the first place. I love that about G-d!
But what about those mashed potatoes?
Well, February was a rough month for me. I am growing, and that’s not always easy. I realized, as I started my up-turn from the difficult month, that I am wrapping up my 42nd year. Biblically speaking that’s a generation, I’ve been told. It’s also six complete cycles of life according to some Celtic systems. AND, of course, it’s the answer to the question of the meaning of life the universe and everything (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). So I suppose it’s just a matter of timing that I am feeling shoved into a new level of being. Should it be any surprise, then, that I feel uncomfortable.. even a little unhappy?
Okay.. a lot unhappy.
Most of February sounded like this, “This is NOT what I always imagined for myself.” “I never planned for it to be like this.” ”I don’t want to live my life this way. I want to do (insert whine of the week here).” Yes, very mature as I just told you I’m a generation old.
And then I heard two little words that made me both laugh and start to understand what’s going on. ”Mashed potatoes.”
Remember that Associate Pastor I mentioned in “Why this church?” The one who had PowerPoint slides and talked about battling the enemy and kind of scared me off? Well, the next time I remember seeing him speak, he got up in front of everyone with props. He had a pot, a bowl, potatoes, a cutting board, a knife, and he announced we’d be talking about Joseph.
When I was little, Joseph was my favorite bible story character. Either because he was his dad’s favorite or because he got to take revenge on his mean older brothers, somehow my five-year old brain really connected to him. But this day, I learned a lot more about Joseph. I won’t do this as well as Pastor did, but I’ll try to paint the right picture.
In case you’re not familiar: Joseph has this dream saying he’ll be greater than all his big brothers. Silly boy, he brags to his brothers who feel a little threatened and plot to get him out of the way. They toss him in a pit, sell him into slavery, and tell pop he’s dead. Joseph does the best he can in everything he does, no matter how awful the situation seems, and each time he makes the best of it. Finally, after all is said and done, he become Pharaoh’s right hand man, saves Egypt and his family. (The full story starts around Genesis 37, if you want to read it yourself.)
Pastor used mashed potatoes as the metaphor for what we can learn from Joseph. He had this dream, and basically G-d showed him that one day he’d become garlic mashed potatoes, worthy of a 5-star dinner. But.. at the time he was just a little spud.
Joseph the spud loved the idea and bragged he’d be mashed potatoes someday. What he didn’t realize is that the process of going from spud to creamy delicacy takes some time, some intervention, and some things that are not so comfortable. First, he had to be ripped out of the ground, scrubbed clean, and then pealed.
OW! That’s my skin!
You wanna be mashed potatoes, right?
No skin on mashed potatoes.
Then… the little spud has to be chopped up…. and boiled… and …
well I think you get the picture.
We all want to be mashed potatoes. Most of us don’t like the scrubbing, peeling, chopping, and boiling required to get there. Who would? It’s pretty normal to want to jump out of the pot of boiling water, especially if you don’t know the end game and why you’re there in the first place.
So there I was last month, whining away, when suddenly it hit me: mashed potatoes.
I was whining that the pot was hot and that I want out. I no longer had a vision of what it was that I was supposed to become. If I *knew* I was destined for the plate with a lovely garnish, next to the juiciest piece of roast beef, it might easier to deal with the discomfort of the peeling and chopping and boiling … and oh yeah! the MASHING. But here I found myself, so mired in the day-to-day that I had forgotten or lost sight of where it was that I’m going.
I have no idea WHY my life is the way it is today. It may feel off-track to me, but what if it’s not? Do you think Joseph planned to be a slave, a house manager, and then a prisoner? I’m guessing not. But he knew that G-d had shown him something good, so he just buckled down and did his best.
What if all these worries and concerns of mine are simply the process I need to go through to become who G-d has planned for me to be?
Maybe I’ll just stop trying to climb out of the pot.