It is a cool, misty-moisty day, a good day to be baking. October is birthday month here at this old house. The first one is next week and for that, a from-scratch high altitude angel food cake is baking in the oven, rising nicely. I save egg whites in the freezer until I have close to 12. A dozen large egg whites equals what is needed for the recipe. I reached 10 egg whites several days ago and so, with the addition of two more egg whites, the unlined copper bowl insert went into the mixer bowl. Soon, a cup-and-a-half of egg whites went from blah liquid to glossy stiff peaks with the help of a little cream of tartar. Mixed with the sugar, flour and vanilla, the egg whites are transformed in taste into something worthy of a birthday celebration. And because I had two egg yolks left over, chocolate pudding is now cooling on the back porch, waiting until it can go in the refrigerator. Two treats because of the way eggs are made!
My afternoon’s cooking and baking are an illustration of what spiritual transformation can be. We take the “raw eggs” of our lives, our talents and gifts, our life experiences and through various practices of “mixing, beating, and adding other ingredients” (such as prayer, fasting, Bible study, worship, service, confession and more), we transform into clearer images of the face of Christ here on earth. If eggs had feelings, I’m sure being beaten in a mixer would not “feel good” but it is what makes them go from blah liquid to exquisite, shiny peaks. And so it is with us. There are things that happen to us that are meant to make us more useful in the Kingdom of God. We need to be mixed with other things, whirled into a new state of being, able to bring joy to those around us.
As in all analogies, the comparison points don’t always line up but it is amazing to me how many situations in life can be an “icon,” an illustration, of God’s work in our lives and our work in God’s Kingdom. For example, tea bags soaking in hot water or pasta cooking in boiling water can remind us of the discipline of meditation. Nature and its riot of colors in autumn or spring display the disciplines of worship and celebration. In fact, the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the 3rd and 4th centuries used meditation on Creation as a Scripture equal to the written Word of God. Even St. Paul, in Romans 1:20 talks about the witness of nature to God: Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. If we will let ourselves see and hear, we can find evidence of God at work throughout our full and busy days, even when we can’t stop and read the Bible.
Fr. Richard Rohr adds this perspective to the idea: All of creation, it seems, has been obedient to its destiny, “each mortal thing does one thing and the same . . . myself it speaks and spells, crying ‘What I do is me, for that I came’” (Gerard Manley Hopkins, “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”). Wouldn’t it be our last and greatest humiliation, if one day we realized that all other creatures have obeyed their destiny with a kind of humility and with trustful surrender? All, except us.
All elements of nature do what they were made to do, even eggs. I invite you this week to be and do who you were created to be. Do what Martha Beck calls “an integrity cleanse.” That is, stop lying! Be honest with yourself, with God, with others. Live out of your deepest desires, the ones God put into your heart and soul. As you do that, you will bring joy to God, to others and to yourself. And have a piece of cake to celebrate!