This is the 3rd of a series of 15 devotionals written almost 30 years ago when my oldest three sons were very little …
I am sure you have heard of the expression “a face that only a mother could love.” Obviously my three sons are all so outstanding that none of them qualify for this expression. Rather, what I would like to tell you about is “the meal that only a mother could eat.”
Every so often our boys like to play “restaurant.” It really is cute to watch – that is unless you are playing the role of the customer. We’re not talking about pretend food with play money here. Nope! The real thing! Diana calls it a learning experience; my stomach calls it a churning experience.
Diana and I are escorted to our seats in the living room where our orders are received. The menu is generally rather limited to cold sandwiches, fruit, pickles and olives. Having taken our orders of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a banana, two pickles and three olives, the chefs then race out of the room and around the corner to be the first into the kitchen to “cook” our food.
This entire experience evokes not only physical discomforts (commencing with the initial sight of the platter) but mental anguish as well. For you see, at this particular restaurant, there are no doors between the dining area and the kitchen to muffle the sounds. One is not able to see, but one is most able to hear the preparation of his lunch.
One cook is given the responsibility by the senior chef to get the dishes out, which requires a sort of rock face climbing act on the kitchen cabinets. Cups, saucers and plates cascade noisily from the cabinets to the counters, and finally to the floor itself.
“Benjamin,” Nathan yells. “Those plates dropped right into the garbage can!”
“It’s OK,” Ben pleads. “They really didn’t get very dirty.”
Before I am able to shout my protest, the distinctly clear, bass drum sound of a crashing peanut butter jar precedes Aaron’s screams of “My toes! Oochy-ouchy my toes are boo-booed!”
“Diana!” I exclaim. “They’re going to die in the kitchen before we die in the living room!”
“Relax,” she says with what appears to me to be an uncharacteristically calm demeanor. “They’re fine – this kind of stuff goes on every day around here.”
I am not comforted.
The rancor in the restaurant kitchen has escalated and taken on a menacingly personal sound. “Benjamin, get your yucky hands out of the jar … you’re stepping on the knife … Oh Aaron, you’re messing up daddy’s sandwich … pick up that bread off the floor … No, you dropped the pickle, you wash it off!”
I again press my protest to the kitchen’s owner. “Diana, I’m not going to eat this; you’ve got to be kidding!”
“Oh Randy,” she says. “They really do a pretty good job for their age. You’ll live.”
Suddenly there is quiet on earth and in heaven. Three giant grins walk around the corner with this thing called lunch. “Oh my!” I exclaim, as I swallow hard. “Isn’t this nice! What a good job you’ve done!” (Seeking divine forgiveness even as I speak) The plate contains a slice of bread with a blob of peanut butter in the middle an inch thick, six pretzels, 10 olives, three pickles, a slice of fingerprinted cheese, and a candy cane for dessert.
“See,” Diana says. “It’s not that bad. Sometimes you’ve got to let them learn the hard way.”
However, just a bit later I make note that Diana’s attitude slips a couple clicks when she discovers the mess in the kitchen – peanut butter everywhere and more crumbs than there are rocks in the Holy Land.”
All in all, the story illustrates the way in which God frequently has to deal with us as his children. So often we insist on doing it ourselves, exerting our independence. Surely in the process we learn many lessons both good and bad. But in the end it takes God to step in and clean up the mess that we make … redeeming all things. After all, we are the sinners that only God could love!