I like to think I’m a good cook (and I dream of being a contestant on Top Chef) so, needless to say, when our friends invited us to Dabble Studio in Nashville for a cooking class a few weeks ago, I was more than excited to participate—no, win—the evening.
You could say I’m kind of competitive.
Wine poured. Appetizers nibbled. Laughter. A soundtrack of indie music played in the background as we kneaded dough, rolled out long ribbons of fettuccine, and created a meal that tasted quite divine indeed. And I left convinced that I needed a pasta machine of my own, so I could recreate the magic of that night over and over again.
But if you’ve ever made pasta—well—you’ll know. There is such a thing as beginner’s luck.
This weekend, Patrick and I rented a cabin in East Tennessee, hoping to get away from the city before the craziness of the holidays begins. Visions of us rolling out pasta in our small stone cottage twirled around in my head. So before we left Nashville, I fought Green Hills traffic, hiked through the Mall to Williams Sonoma, bought a pasta machine. Then at Publix, I checked off my grocery list, gathering ingredients for a perfect red wine ragu. And sometime Saturday afternoon, I pulled everything out, prepared to make perfect fettuccine ribbons all over again.
Things went wrong rather quickly.
First, I couldn’t find measuring cups. So I eyeballed the measurements, which meant I used far too little flour. The dough was eggy and sticky and as we ran the first quarter of our batch through the machine, flour billowed up in our faces, while the dough lodged in the machine, sticking to stainless steel and folding in on itself.
It’s funny how little it takes to send me over the edge. But I breathed, tried again. This time, the dough was so ruined, it wrapped itself up in the machine as though it were hiding from my hands.
I threw the ruined dough across the kitchen. One loud f-bomb disrupted the cows grazing just beyond our doors. I’d followed the recipe EXACTLY. Ish. I’d floured the counter and waited the appropriate amount of time for the dough to settle! It looked like it was supposed to look. And still…
“NOTHING WORKS LIKE IT’S SUPPOSED TO,” I shouted, post-profanity. Leaning against the kitchen island, covered in flour, I looked up at Patrick—who was similarly mussed, and we both understood that my frustrations with pasta weren’t just with pasta.
Life is most frustrating, not when tragedies come out of the blue and blindside us with ferocity, but when small, daily struggles pile up around us until they feel insurmountable. When we’re doing everything in our power that we know to do, and still, brokenness. This is what life is like sometimes. Maybe most times.
And I’m not talking about — hey, I’m trying to cook dinner here, and it’s not working. Or, I’m working hard, why am I not rich and famous?
I’m talking about the couple that penny-pinches every month, and still the debt doesn’t seem to diminish. I’m talking about the girl who smiles and laughs and goes on countless dates, and still the relationship she desires still doesn’t come. I’m talking about the guy who goes to the doctor and the physical therapist and shows up and does the hard work and still, the pain won’t go away. I’m talking about the couple who month after month, waits in the bathroom, looks at the test, and sees, yet again, that it is negative.
This isn’t how things were supposed to go, you say to yourself and to God and to anyone that will hear you yell or cry or curse. This isn’t how things are supposed to be.
We continued to roll out the pasta, despite our frustrations, despite the fact that at any turn it could go wrong, and likely would. We added more flour. We draped the long strands—some broken, some perfect—across a wooden box, allowed them to dry. And then we threw what we’d made into a pot of boiling water. Hoping there would be enough to eat.
And here’s the irony of it all. There was more than enough to eat. So much, in fact, that I couldn’t even finish what was on my plate.
God is like that to us. All we see is the mess right in front of us. The ways life is not working. The ways that what we see doesn’t match the picture in our mind. We look at our circumstances, and we think, there’s no way this is going to suffice. There’s no way we could be full, or happy or hopeful, when all there is is brokenness. But then, somehow, in the midst of it all—thereis enough. He provides enough.
Enough food, yes. Sure. But enough stamina. And enough energy. And enough courage. and enough compassion. And enough comfort. And enough hope. So much, you can’t even begin to consume it all.
“I am the man who has seen affliction. He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than in light. He has walled me in so I cannot escape. He has weighed me down with chains.
I have been deprived of peace. I have forgotten what prosperity looks like. I remember my affliction, and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for him.’ It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence. There may yet be hope.
—Lamentations 3, paraphrased.