I love tapioca pudding. On one of those rare occasions many years ago when I had the run of the house for little while, I found a box of it in my grandmother’s cabinet. I wasn’t looking for it, but since I was 12, and alone, it was my duty to explore stuff, just in case the adults were hiding mysterious things that needed to be found. “Wow,” I thought, “a whole box of tapioca pudding!” I figured I could make it, eat it, and hide the evidence before they got back. The directions were pretty simple – milk, sugar, a couple of eggs, some cinnamon, and the tapioca stuff. I checked to see that we had all the ingredients, and launched into my culinary adventure. It was an adrenalin rush with a double wallop. I had not only stumbled onto a carefully hidden adult secret—which was stimulating enough on its own, but I had uncovered the mystery at a time when no one was around to tell me I’d have to wait until they had time to make it. It was a divinely inspired moment. I forged ahead with a boundless enthusiasm that refused to be hampered by such insignificant details as the sequence involved in tapioca production. I turned on the stove, poured the milk in a pan, and dumped in the sugar and cinnamon and magic tapioca stuff. Then I got distracted for a few minutes by a neighborhood kid who came by to see what I was doing. When I got back to my covert operation in the kitchen, the milk was boiling, and I suddenly realized that I forgotten to put those eggs in it. I grabbed a couple from the fridge, broke them on the edge of the pan, and plopped them into the boiling milk. Tapioca just isn’t the same when you don’t stir it, nor when the eggs are just dropped in after the milk is already boiling. When it was over, the part that wasn’t stuck to the bottom of the pan in a thick, brown, gooey mess was full of large yellow and white hunks of egg. The adults eventually tired of telling my story, and I grew up reasonably normal, but I buy tapioca in those little ready-to-eat containers now.
Some food doesn’t require any preparation. You can pluck a blackberry off the vine, for instance, and just pop it in your mouth and hardly break your stride. Well…, you might want to check to see that it doesn’t have one of those pesky little spiders munching on the other side of it first, but it’s pretty much a grab it and go kind of thing. Other things need a little work. If you go out and shoot a Thanksgiving turkey and then just pick the thing up and start chewing on its leg while it’s still twitching, word will get around and folks will begin to avoid social contact with you. Some foods just need a little work, even if a preliminary killing isn’t part of the process. For instance, you could measure out all the ingredients for an apple pie in slice-sized proportions and pile it on a plate. If that’s all you do, the fact that you have the right amounts of fruit, flour, sugar, and cinnamon won’t make it taste like apple pie even if you add whipped cream. God may be able to whip things up with no apparent preparation and make something out of nothing, but it doesn’t work so well for the rest of us. Strange, isn’t it, how we who know so well the importance of preparation when we set out to bake a pie or roast a turkey but seem so bent on avoiding it when it comes to things of eternal significance?
At the time of this writing, millions of us have been neck-deep for a week or more preparing for Thanksgiving. Travel plans had to be finalized, work schedules adjusted, the pantry and cupboard inventories had to be reviewed, and cherished recipes retrieved from their secluded holding places. Thanksgiving in America does not descend upon households with the effortless grace of frost on the lawn, and it isn’t surprising that the most memorable ones are almost always the ones preceded by the most carefully detailed and executed plans. That chorus of satisfied after-dinner groans we all look forward to is predicated upon hours of planning, a broad array of physical chores, and financial sacrifice. There is an undeniable connection between the impact of the celebration and the efforts invested in preparation. As they used to say in the early days of computers, ‘Garbage in—garbage out.’ The final product is often the only commentary needed on the value of the process. Interesting that when it comes to a Thanksgiving meal, we want the hands-on, labor intensive, ‘made from scratch’ variety, but when it comes to the spiritual side of Thanksgiving, we seem to want the ‘instant’ brand—no preparation necessary.
God is a huge fan of feasting and thanksgiving celebrations. He actually invented the whole idea, and was way ahead of us in making it a big deal on a national scale. God’s ‘Thanksgiving’ dinners sometimes lasted for days and had transforming spiritual impact on the whole nation. And even though God has a proven set of skills at making something out of nothing, His celebrations required advance preparation by His people. The most powerful ones were preceded by the most intense preliminary activities on the part of those involved. Some spiritual heavy lifting had to be done first. There were enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, a moral and ethical cleanup list to be completed, and some huge priority adjustments to be made. All that was hard, but when it was done, and the gratitude began to be poured out for the victories, the deliverance, the provision, and the hope, the joy that erupted, was irresistible and overwhelming. It still works that way.
We don’t have powerful, transforming, uplifting, and unforgettable Thanksgivings by simply performing a collective ritual. There’s some spiritual heavy lifting required first, maybe a few enemies to be overcome, or some major cleanup chores to be completed, and some personal priority adjustments to be made. After all, eating a Thanksgiving turkey generates a lot more gratitude when we take the time to cook it first.
© 2015 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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