Over the past couple months I have found cooking therapeutic. In fact, one of the things I've enjoyed the most has been using my electric smoker. Ribs, pork shoulder, brisket, and wings have all been fun experiments. I've enjoyed making pancakes for my kids more than usual, and I've enjoyed having folks over for the meals I cook. But there was one meal I dared not try to make.
Eggplant parmigiana. It's one of my favorite meals. But I didn't want to make it. At least, not since the house fire. After all, that's what I was making when our kitchen caught fire. I didn't want to deal with any of the fears or flashbacks. "What if it happens again?" I thought.
God, however, thought it was time to face the fear. I shared at a church presentation, and made an off hand comment about how I haven't cooked eggplant since. A kind woman came up to me after the service remarking that it was such a shame that I wasn't making eggplant, since she had just picked 16 eggplants from her garden.
It might be silly, but I knew this was from the Lord. I took two eggplants, went and got the same brand of sauce and fresh mozzarella that I was going to use the last time, and I took the plunge. The waves of fear and anxiety weren't as crippling. The flashbacks (yes, they still came) didn't knock me off my feet as they once had.
It's a small picture of the restoration that's guaranteed by the grace of Christ. The fire, while destructive, could not take away my hope for all time, because God is bigger. He is better. And He has proven that He will make all things new in the person of Christ. I may have fears. I may have new things that come in and disrupt my life. But God will ultimately use those things to grow me more into His likeness, helping me to overcome fear with Christ-focused faith. Eggplant parm, believe it or not, once felt like a noose that would suck the life from me. Now? It's a sign of remembrance. The Lord was faithful to me and my family, and has continued to do so, bringing us closer to the finished product He has promised to make us.
The fear that once consumed, the anxiety that once crippled, is slowly subsiding. Grace not only comforted me. It also restored me.
This is a picture of the effect of grace in the life of a believer. Grace gives us the hope of salvation and forgiveness through faith in Christ. But could you imagine if it stopped there? Could you imagine if I was destined to a life of vicious flashbacks and never-ending fears only to be covered by a veiled band-aid of "Jesus loves you" with no hope of transformation? Ephesians talks about this change throughout the letter.
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called..." (4:1)
"you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds." (4:17)
"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (5:1-2)
The first three chapters of Ephesians are all about who we are because of Christ. Chapter 4 starts a stirring call: Walk in the life God gave you. Part of that is trusting that God does and will heal, as hard as it may be, as long as it takes. I will not always be crippled by fear, weighed down by anxiety, or defeated by sin. Instead, we as believers will be carried by grace to become the men and women that God had always intended us to be.
It may be as simple, and silly, as getting to make eggplant parm once more. It might be finally having the courage to share Christ rather than giving into fear. It might be choosing to love someone, rather than let your insecurities get the better of you. It might be, for right now, trusting that God will carry you through in the midst of grief and suffering that you just have no idea how to navigate. Wherever you are, you can know for certain, God's grace will not just comfort you. It will change and restore you, bringing us to our best state when we are with God in heaven.