Nine weeks ago a dear friend decided to begin teaching me how to cook. Our first dish? Schnitzel!
Dust the meat with flour, dip into the beaten egg mixture, and press in the flavoured bread-crumb mixture before frying in butter… delicious! My favourite part comes before all of this though: covering the meat in clingfilm before beating it with a meat hammer. There are few things more satisfying than the rhythmic thump thump thump of the hammer pounding the flesh into a uniform thickness.
Life feels a bit like that sometimes. No escape from the relentless thump thump thump of circumstances. Last week our leadership team had to tackle a difficult situation which required wisdom and outside help. It brought me back to events five years ago that battered my heart so hard it took years for it to dare come out of hiding again.
I was surprised at how readily those old fears and anxieties came flooding back.
In Romans 5:3 Paul reminds us that suffering produces perseverance. Surely that perseverance means that I should be better able to endure the blows that life hits me with, right? That trials become easier and I recover more quickly than before? So why did it feel like I was back at square one, heart sore and shuddering?
And then it hit me.
Hitting the schnitzel meat with a hammer isn’t supposed to make the meat tough.
It’s supposed to make it tender.
In God’s Kingdom the progression is from heart of stone to heart of flesh, always getting softer.
The fruits of the Spirit do not include toughness but kindness, gentleness.
The more we become like Christ, the more tender our hearts become.
The more we become like Christ, the more we choose to love.
The more we become like Christ, the more we become love:
Love like Him who died for us while we were still sinners, still ungodly, still God-haters. We become vulnerable like Him, fearlessly offering love even when it may be ignored or trampled on:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
“… love is kind… it always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
1 Corinthians 13:4;7.