A few weeks ago I organised a ‘Come Dine With Me’ although it was an invite with a difference, especially for one of my brothers because he had to do the cooking.
Generously I provided the kitchen, cooking utensils, plates and cutlery. Initially I had entertained the idea of cooking myself but as the guest list got bigger I decided I was out of my depth.
Between my two brothers, a cousin and a friend the prospect of having to cook for five filled me with dread. Yet the more I think about the matter the choice of who was cooking was taken out of my hands and my brother insisted on being chief chef. Secretly I was delighted at the prospect until I saw the damage and the mess he started to create in the kitchen, especially as I had agreed to wash and dry the dishes. At one stage I felt as if I had been washing and drying dishes for an hour because he must have used every pot, dish and plate in the house and in the end he only made a Spanish omelette.
The reason for the invite to dinner was my recent enthusiasm for cooking which became necessary by the reality of fending for myself at weekends. Over the last few months I have attempted to cook pasta with chicken, paella, an Indian curry with boiled rice, pasta with chicken, paella, pasta with bolognaise and paella. I’m not the biggest lover of fish but the paella is very handy and quick to make. The first week I was attempting to make the dish I failed to notice in the cooking instructions how the recipe was designed to cater for four people. Due to such lack of foresight I was eating paella for the best part of the week, at both lunch and dinner times. I’m sad to say I now find myself in the supermarkets wondering around for over one hour and in the end having to form a support group with other men struggling to cope with having to shop and cook for yourself. Often I only go in for one item and end up spending a fortune on other goods I had no intention of buying.
I often think these writers of cookery books, especially those which promise express meals in under half hour should be sued for false promises or advertising. Usually it takes me half a day never mind half an hour to cook a meal. Normally it requires one to two hours for going shopping, allowing for getting lost and not being able to reach the shelves and being too embarrassed to ask for help. There is also the small factor of male pride and wanting to look to be in control and in no need of help. Of course I know where to find all the vegetables and the frozen chicken, I don’t need to stop and ask for directions.
Then you have to allow another hour to cut, chop and prepare your ingredients. At this stage you’re about to pass out with weakness due to hunger and still you have to spend a further hour and a half cooking your dinner. All the time you’re running back and forth checking the recipe for instructions, trying to keep an eye on various pots whilst thinking you should have went to ‘the chippy’ or the Chinese.
In a world when we expect everything yesterday and we demand the impossible now, we have grown unaccustomed to having to wait. If caught in traffic we suffer road rage, if stuck in queues we struggle at time to control our anger and frustration. These are the occasions and the situations over which we have no control; to some degree it highlights our own limitations and powerlessness. No-one likes being confronted which challenges and setbacks which interrupt our plans and agendas. Time is of the essence, so we like everything prepared and waiting for us, a lot of us no longer have the patience to start at the beginning and persevere with many ventures or tasks. In this age of technological advancement when many tasks and procedures can be completed by the push of a button, we can find it difficult to struggle with having to wait, having to cope with delays. In such circumstances we learn much about the person we have become by the way we react to change.
During Advent we’re asked to wait, we’re challenged to reflect on what is involved in having to wait. To fully understand and appreciate this holy season we hand ourselves over to God’s purpose and time. These next four weeks involve a journey when we’re asked to hand over control as we learn to wait patiently and expectantly on what God wants to do in our lives. During this period of preparation we listen for God’s gentle approach as we attune ourselves to his voice. Amidst all the changes, all the upheavals and disasters there is one thing which remains sure and constant and that is God’s love for us. Jesus will come again to gather all God’s people, now is the time to make ourselves ready as we listen to his word and follow his commands.