Yesterday, I exploded a baked potato in the oven for the first time ever in my life. They were big ones – on special at Kroger – and I was getting ready to make twice baked potatoes. I opened the oven to check on them, touched one with the hot pad, and BOOM, it went everywhere. If I had not been so stunned and simultaneously disappointed in myself, I would have marveled at the violence of an exploding potato, in real time. It was cool. Growing up, my mom would reference exploding baked potatoes as the mark of an inexperienced cook. Those who did not properly poke the potato full of holes had not been “raised right” in the kitchen. The husbands of those poor women deserved extra sympathy for having to put up with the kitchen foibles of an inexperienced wife, including the possibly even dangerous exploding potatoes. We must mentor the inexperienced potato ladies so that they are not caught unawares by their lack of preparedness or knowledge.
So, yesterday, when the 875th potato in my baked potato history exploded in the oven, I was thrown back to childhood tight-rope fears. What if I do it all “right” (I promise I poked that sucker practically to death) and I fall off anyway? What if the potato explodes and those around me assume I’m inept or feel sorry for the people I love…or try to love? What if I fall off the tightrope in this move to Clarkston?
Our house goes on the market this weekend. It feels like I am stepping onto a tightrope this week. It feels like I could encounter carefully tended potatoes that just up and explode anyways.
We had the boys’ two rooms painted a “neutral color” yesterday, per the advice of a realtor-friend. The youngest one came home and exploded like a potato when he saw it. His face got red, his eyes got teary, and he looked for things to destroy in his room. Several shredded Pokemon cards, an old box, and some tissues later, he pronounced, “much better.” I knew he would be sad…I was sad to lose the blue on the walls that he proudly picked out by himself at the age of 6…but the explosion part was a little surprising to me, given his usual demeanor and reactions.
Exploding potatoes scare me.
Even at work today, I exploded a bit when I could NOT get a standard formatting issue to work in a PowerPoint I was feverishly working on for my boss. Those pesky little bullets just don’t text wrap like you want them to when you’re under a time crunch and have to leave at 2:30 for a doctor’s appointment. For the umpteenth time, the text did not wrap. I experienced an internal explosion. “Youmessedup Itsnotright Fixitfast Pullittogether.” It felt like I was wearing a sign, “Warning: Contents Under Pressure.”
A friend said just this morning in an email, “I really have felt that God is reminding me that yes, I’m a mess. He knows that, and once I admit it, it’s a lot easier for Him to do something with me.”
The gospel is both a narrow door and a spacious place. I believe God is showing me that it is a narrow door in the sense that the ONLY way to the spacious place of grace is through the cross. Jesus went through, crossed over, opened the door. The cross was God’s best plan, and when I try to usurp His best with my own effort at good, thinking that my “narrow way” of getting it all right will lead to spacious places, I end up squeezing myself into smaller and smaller soul-spaces, so that things like exploding potatoes feel like judge, jury, and verdict on my inability to get it right. When I enter through the narrow door of the cross; when I surrender and believe rather than redouble my efforts; when I deliberately step off of the tight rope and through the door, I discover the spacious place on the other side. When I surrender and believe, I can explode and still laugh.
Lately, I have been enjoying Proverbs 31. Women love to moan about that chapter, because it feels like a tight-rope that could lead to explosions, I think. But this week, as I’ve pondered the mother who was giving advice to her son, I hear her saying, “Son, find a cutie pie who messes up but still believes. Find a lady who stands tall because she believes rather than because she tries. Find a partner who laughs…a lot…when things explode.” Proverbs 31:25, “She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.'” (NIV)
I’m quite positive there will be explosions in the weeks to come. I pray that I fall off the tight rope laughing, secure in the grace below.