We shuffled in the potluck line, looking ahead to see the choices. A basket of brown bread caught my eye. A German woman brought it, and she proudly exclaimed that her son had perfected the sourdough recipe to taste just like it did in Bavaria.
“Your bread is marvelous. Could I have a bit of your starter?”
“Oh, I don’t have it. It’s my son’s but I will talk to him.”
The world shutdown with COVID-19 and cut off my source for sourdough. My mouth watered for German bread, so I asked for starter for Mothers’ Day. One of our sons surprised us Mothers’ Day weekend with his presence and with sourdough starter.
We followed the instructions meticulously, measuring every ingredient to the gram. It turned out okay, but the dough was wet and didn’t look like the pictures online. I’m on my fifth batch now and have discovered that our climate influences the dough. Inferior texture and appearance call for shifting amounts of ingredients and temperature, but not following the recipe is unpredictable and therefore uncomfortable.
Besides bread baking, I’ve sought recipes for growing closer to God and for changing my character. If I could land on a strategy to pursue, something like “be thankful,” or “live by faith,” it would seem much easier. Maxims are great, but they are driven by willpower, like self-help advice. They don’t necessarily include the person and power of God. I could resolve to spend an hour studying scripture, yet never connect with the Holy Spirit. Routines for study and prayer are helpful, as long as they don’t become the object of my focus, instead of communing with God.
To grow in God, there is no secret ingredient or set recipe. He is living. Like communicating in human relationships, I must be sensitive to Him and not try to prescribe Him, as if I could! The Bible reveals Him, but He also shows Himself in nature, in people, and even in baking bread. I am living too. Like yeast-dough, I am affected by external and internal environments. The LORD knows best what to add and what to take away. Sometimes this requires wrestling and discomfort. It’s a workout, but He is the guarantee for the result, not my self-help.
My beloved,…work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12, 13