We have needed a new oven for about four years. We weren’t waiting to buy a new one because we were so attached to the old one, but a tight budget insisted that we make do with what we had. And what we had was something right out of the seventies. It was a double oven, with a large oven on the bottom, a stovetop in the middle and a smaller oven above that. It was all one piece and the lovely burnt yellow color of the appliance often took my breath away. But not in a good way.
The larger oven stopped heating well years ago, but the top oven seemed sufficient for our cooking needs, so we used the larger one for the storage of all of our frying pans and cookie sheets.
Recently, the coils in the top oven stopped working properly. We called a repair company who told us it would cost over $300 to fix our “beloved” oven. As we contemplated the possible repair, a wise friend shook me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye and said, “Why would you put money into that old oven when it will probably break again in three months. Use the money towards a new one.”
I did the sensible, mature thing: I avoided the situation, but carried a hint of resentment every time I would have to bake something. I would set the oven to broil at 500 and preheat it for half an hour, pretending that it worked perfectly and all was well. The internal temperature would reach around 375 which was hot enough to make sure chicken was fully cooked and safe for my family to consume. And I started using the crock pot and grill more often because that‘s the thing about denial. I can be quite creative and adamant in my resistance to face reality.
Until one day, God sent an angel in the form of my mother in law who walked into our kitchen, looked at my husband, and told him she wanted to buy us a new oven. What does one do with such a generous offer and gift? Well, if you are me, you just cry.
We started planning and because this was a gift, it was quite fun to think about how nice it would be to have a new oven. I started dreaming about evenly cooked roasts and perfectly browned cookies and all of the dinners that would take half the time to cook. We walked through the appliance store and opened various ovens, read about the bells and whistles and joyfully made a decision.
When the sales rep told me that it could be delivered and installed three days later, I was ecstatic. And when I walked into my kitchen and saw a beautiful stainless steel oven waiting for me on that November morning, I took a deep breath and said a big thank you. I had been longing for a new oven for much longer than I realized and couldn’t believe that what I had been waiting for was finally here.
I read the instruction manual and it said for the first use, turn the oven to 400 degrees and let it heat for 45 minutes. Sounded good to me. I started cleaning out my kitchen while the oven heated and even though the kitchen was a little smoky, I just thought that it was related to the first time use. I happily organized my pantry when all of a sudden, a loud bang exploded from inside my new oven which caused me to scream. Hannah ran into the smoke-filled kitchen wondering what was going on and Steve sprinted upstairs from the basement, greeted by the screeching smoke detector. I peered into the oven window and saw a small flame and feared that my whole kitchen would ignite at any moment. Somehow, Steve got the oven moved and unplugged and the flame extinguished and we all breathed a deep sigh of relief. I opened my new oven only to find it completely covered in white ash and knew my hopes for a new appliance would have to wait a little longer.
This was not what I had been waiting for.
The oven story has a happy ending. After returning the defective oven, we now have a beautiful new oven that works well, but I look at it suspiciously every time I turn it on. When I detect a little burning smell, I am convinced that it is malfunctioning and getting ready to explode. I am not fully embracing this sweet gift of a new oven.
I tend to do that with a lot in my life. I hold things loosely and never want to get my hopes up too much that something will actually work as I hope it will.
If I am honest, I tend to do that with Jesus too. I cross my arms and just wait for Him to not be the one I am waiting for.
But what if He really is?
Advent started almost two weeks ago. It is a season when Christians observe a time of waiting as we prepare for the birth of Jesus at Christmas. It is a hopeful time when we anticipate the coming of Christ.
I don’t know about you, but a part of me really dreads this time of year. I feel stressed about spending money and buying the “perfect” gift for everyone. I worry about creating a meaningful holiday for my family and want to figure out ways to help my kids remember the true reason for the season. It is easy to compare and feel inadequate and get frustrated and forget why Christmas matters in the first place.
What if we didn’t do this year? What if we made room to give ourselves time to think about what it means to “anticipate the coming of Christ” and to understand in a deeper way that He is all we are waiting for?
And even if eleven days into Advent, we find ourselves overwhelmed and impatient and feeling broken already, can we simply come to the Lord and start again?
As a friend and I discussed the struggle of Advent, she reminded me of a recent blog post by Leanna Tankersly that said, “Love is the only thing that heals us.”
A love that will never disappoint or fail. A love that isn’t offered only if we are completely organized and purchase meaningful gifts and decorate our homes and do cool crafts with our kids so that they love Jesus more.
It is a love that meets us in our mess, our loneliness, our fears, and tells us that we are “never more loved than in the moment of our failings, our faltering, our humanity. We are never more loved than the moment when it all falls apart.”
Jesus was born so that we might know a love like that. And THAT is a truth so worth waiting for.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30-The Message (MSG)