Last week on July 2 my wife, Karin, declared that I would be grilling on the 4th of July. Cooking of any kind doesn’t come naturally to me, I am equally challenged in areas of focus and attention to detail. I also have the palate of a six year old so it’s just not my thing. When you actually like bologna sandwiches you are not destined to be a world famous chef. However, Karin’s birthday is the 5th, when she had to work, and all she really wanted for her birthday was a stay-at-home 4th of July with the family and a playlist of our favorite patriotic films. We shortened the list to include Sergeant York, 1776, and Midway. We got to watch two, the kids kinda faded on us. In any case, she didn’t want to cook and did want me to grill fajitas. What’s a good husband to do? I stepped outside on Monday night to clean the grill.
Now, if you know me or follow the blog at all you already know the last few years have been pretty tumultuous. First there was mental illness within my immediate family, then I lost both of my parents, 69 and 72, within six months of each other. Because of the schedule, then the grief, that these events created, grilling had fallen off my list of priorities completely! It had been years since I fired up the grill. We have two of them, one was my Dad’s, it’s the newer of the two. It was suffering from some disuse over the last year, needed cleaning, hadn’t been used since Mom went in the hospital in the spring of 2015. I didn’t want to use it because it made me sad to even think about it. My grill, however, is older and has endured hard service. Also, it was cheaper from the beginning. Needless to say, it was in worse shape, even worse shape than I expected!
In fact, that grill had come to the end of it’s life span. The grill plates were warped and when I tried to scrub them and the burners, the metal just disintegrated. It took about ten minutes to realize that it was now just a fond memory of burgers past. I walked into the house and cried out, “The grill is dead! Long live the grill!” walked out the door, and began to prepare the other grill for service. It worked like a champ and I had a great time, listening to music, talking to people in the neighborhood and tending the sizzling goodness that was coming to fruition in the dark, hot grill.
It felt good. It felt like restoration.
So many times, we don’t want to move forward. So many times the combination of pain and work make us shrink back and not take the necessary steps into life; especially life after… While I was scrubbing the disintegrating metal of the old grill, I knew it was hopeless, I was going to have to let it go and move on to restoring the grill my Father left me. As I gave up and moved to the next job, cleaning and prepping the new grill, the scrubbing took on a different kind of feeling. It was hopeful scrubbing. It was expectant scrubbing. Each bit of dirt that I cleared away, each unwanted ‘visitor’ that had moved into the grill for shelter which had to be relocated or destroyed, each bit of old grease falling away to reveal the strong metal beneath made me anticipate the rest of the journey.
And there it was, born of love for my wife as I prepped and then grilled for my family, restoration. It felt like new life, like resurrection; restoration. It felt like Independence Day!
Bad stuff happens to everyone. It’s the way life is on earth. I could wax theological or philosophical about the reasons, but in many ways, the reasons are irrelevant to the sheer act of surviving our suffering, whatever form it takes. The truth is, I don’t care really why my parents were taken suddenly and early. I don’t care what caused my eldest child’s battle with depression, anxiety and the other things that have plagued him. I don’t care why. I haven’t had time. I’ve been busy dodging slings and arrows. I know this, though. The Old Testament says in Proverbs 24:16, “….though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” Every time we get back up and do the hard work of restoration, we speak of a higher faith, whether we claim that faith or not. (It’s amazing to me how many folks I know claim to have no faith but live unknowingly on it’s shore and rejoice in the treasures it leaves in the tide pools!)
Here’s the thing, when we suffer loss, we turn inward. It’s necessary. We self-protect. But we don’t have to stay there! We can get up and move on! Especially those of us who live in the sure knowledge of our Loving Father and the faith that springs up in that relationship. I think the Apostle Paul said it best:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side,but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. — II Corinthians 4: 7-14 —
So get out there and clean your grill!