Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Caught, Not Taught

While in college in the '80's, I heard the phrase how some things are "caught, not taught". It was a rebuttal to the "do as I say, not do as I do" kind of mentality that sometimes surfaces in parenting, which has parallels in discipling/mentoring relationships. Modeling is a very biblical concept, that your character, based on biblical obedience and following Jesus, sets a precedence for new Christians to follow. The way we pray, read the Bible and worship are often influenced by the people we had around us when we became believers, whether they, or even we, intended it or not.

A friend I discipled a few years back recently got married. She called me up a few days ago to simply remind me of some of the things she learned from me, mostly regarding persistence in prayer and looking to God. As lovely as that was to hear, I regretted that we didn't pray more together. As encouraging as my words were to her, I longed that she had "caught" a few things rather than had been "taught" by me. When I asked her to move in with us, I hoped that this would be part of the discipling process. Not that I was a spiritual giant, but I had hopes that she would pick up on things that no amount of verbal teaching could inspire. Like hospitality--opening one's home and life to others. Instead, she learned how to cook from me.

I'm an adventurous cook. I research recipes and try them. I try to understand cultures through food. I love to experiment and learn new things. While she lived with me, she was fascinated by this creative process--my recipe books and binders, weird ingredients and spontaneous cooking sessions. Often I suspected that this was her secret motivation to be discipled by me. I was right, because when I asked what the biggest thing she learned from me during her time in our home, that was right at the top of the list.

I was greatly disappointed. Yes, one of the women who trained me in ministry also taught me how to menu plan, shop and cook while I lived in her home, but that wasn't the emphasis. We walked through the finer points of hospitality every week as we invited people over and served them, of course. The details of making guests feel comfortable is a learned skill, and also a bit of an art. But the things that changed my life were things about committing my life to God.

I wondered if I was wasting my time. What eternal value does a skill in preparing a meal have? Will I be cooking in Heaven? Should I give up discipling young women and start a cooking school instead? Would God be pleased that I've contributed more Marthas to His kingdom than Marys? Should I give up and just write a cookbook?

Over time, I got over it and accepted the fact that this is the one talent that seems to attract most younger women to me. When my friend got married, I wrote recipes on index cards, especially recipes passed on to me by friends. I wrote on each card the name of the friend and who she was--a woman I led to Christ, another I discipled, or the one that was in my bible study or someone who discipled or influenced me. I found a recipe file box in her favorite color, hoping this was a tangible reminder to go and make disciples. I hoped that as she collected recipes from her friends, that she would pray for them as she made the dish.

I also gave her and her husband a cookbook/memoir of Marcus Samuelsson's trip through Africa. The recipes were amazing, the stories even more so and the photography was magnificent. Both of them are artists and photographers, and I was sure that they would enjoy everything about it. Sometimes, when I prepared lunch for her and myself, she would pause in the serious discussion we were having at the table and look at the food we were eating: the colors of an inner leaf of an artichoke, the contrast between the stripes in the radacchio and the brightness of the green beans of the marinated salad, the complementary colors of the red grapes and honeydew melon slices, she saw the art in everything I did. And she is the first person who ever ate my food that consciously appreciated the thought that I put into its presentation.

So, I'm willing to work with this. If my food furthers the Great Commission, then I won't complain.

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