The following excerpt from my latest book, Believer in Waiting, seems quite appropriate on the day before Thanksgiving (when I will not be cooking but helping to clean up after a community dinner where my family and I will receive the benefits of those who can cook -- this is an event that takes place every year and is sponsored by our parish; it is for everyone, whether rich or poor, alone or endowed with many local family members and friends; it is a community event that all look forward to and to which each contributes in his or her own way by cooking, serving, or cleaning up).
Everyone knows that I cannot cook a decent meal. As for the rest of my homemaking skills, let us just say that my passing grade in Home Economics as a child was a gift from a teacher who liked me but not necessarily a reflection of my homemaking ability. I think she just did not want to ruin my straight-A average. Maybe she gave me the grade for effort rather than result.
When my kids were growing up, if I wanted to get them to do something, I would just have to threaten to cook dinner myself rather than their dad. Even as youngsters, they knew how to cook well. (Their spouses love that.) As an adult, Doah wrote a book with my help, an exercise in understanding and developing literacy. The topic of all the tales in the book is my sad lack of homemaking skills and the horrendous outcome of my attempts to use them. The stories are as true as they are hilarious. Why I got missed in the distribution of talents that most women have, I may never know.
Every once in a while, though, I try to remedy the situation—to no avail. On Donnie’s birthday recently, I decided to make him dinner, freeing him from that daily task. He protested, but then realized that this was going to be my gift to him so he let me try. I had purchased some fresh squid; they are easy to cook. A salad and some vegetables, rolls, desserts—voila! a great dinner! Except it was, following historic patterns, not edible. Donnie made himself a toasted cheese sandwich, and, as happens in such cases, I ate the inedible meal just to prove something. (Just what I am trying to prove in these cases, I am not sure.)
So, I ask, if God loves me, why can’t I cook? This question parallels the kinds of questions that my catechism kids ask: if God loves me, why can’t I do something I want to do, why don’t I get an A grade on my project or test, why can’t I have a specific gift or opportunity, i.e. why is life so tough sometimes? I love the book by Lorraine Peterson that attempts to answer this question: If God Loves Me, Why Can’t I Get My Locker Open? I recommend it to all parents, catechists, and teenagers.
In thinking about this question, a possible answer begins forming in my mind. I cannot do things perfectly because I am human, ordinary. Not everything I want will go my way because it should not go my way because I am human, ordinary, and need to grow and learn. I need to walk in the path of the cross because it is that path that brings a different kind of life, one that leads to resurrection, one that is pleasing to God.
And then the life of Jesus comes to mind. He did not choose to live an extraordinary life but an ordinary one although the way he lived it was extraordinary. If he had not lived an ordinary life, we would not have the wonderful example of how we, as ordinary, human beings, can and should live. He gave us the example of how to live the way God would have us live, how to be servants to those around us, how to improve life for others, and how to bear our cross, whatever that may be, with grace and trust. He gave us the answer to the question that my catechism kids ask.
Oh, yes, now I know the answer. Why can’t I get the locker open, cook a meal for my husband, receive only accolades, have no financial worries, birth only healthy children, etc.? I cannot do those things precisely because God does love me! Just like God loved Job. Just like God loved Jesus!