Baking With Bitterness
-Rev Melissa Fain-
"Do you know how they make this BBQ sauce?" my husband asks.
"No idea," I answer. "How?"
"They take vinegar that is so pure that if you were to drink it straight up it would kill you. Then they put just a little into the sauce." He knows this because he had a conversation with someone who has made the sauce. In his one sentence, he as turned my peaceful dinner into a life or death experience.
"I love red velvet cake," the student answers.
"Mmm, I do too," the teacher answers. "I love the icing. Cream cheese and vinegar."
"Ahh! Eww! Disgusting!" the students moan.
"That's how you add that tang of bitterness," the teacher says.
"I want my dessert all sweet," the student who loves red velvet comments.
"Cooks add bitter to sweet all the time. Some desserts are cooked with sour cream." The conversation was over. The students view of desserts had been smashed to smithereens.
In the right proportions bitterness can kill us. We don't want to straight up drink that. It's acidic, Our perception of bitterness is often understood in it's pure form. Meanwhile, we don't want complete sweetness either. All sweet is overpowering. It too can destroy the body, but in a different way. What we need is balance.
When we read the stories of people talking about the brokenness of the general church, we need to see ingredients to the perfect solution. Stories are our ingredients, and no one is going to swallow the undiluted truth. It would kill the soul of any congregant willing to digest it. Also, as I mentioned above, no truth at all will set the soul into a diabetic coma of which there is no recovery.
What the church needs is a master chef of folding sweetness into the bitter truth. If not that, mixing savory with the bitter to make it part of the main course. In blunt words, most of those wounded by the church haven't figured out how to make their woundedness palatable. I'm not saying create a deconstructed woundedness. I don't want to rip our stories to shreds, and hide them in other things. Rather, I think we need to highlight them in other things.
I cannot wrap my head around the idea that the modern institution of church has completely turned into dangerous acid. I also can't believe we have put ourselves into a diabetic stupor because we are stuck on only the good news (lower case done intentionally). I have to believe the Good News (uppercase intentional) can take our brokenness and make something beautiful and substantial with it. I have to believe that same Good News is so glorious we can't help but be in awe of that glory. BUT- we can't have pure anything. We have to believe the villainy can be saved while also accepting that villainy exists. To do this requires not tipping to far into one side or another. It requires balance. After all, we have to eat what we bake.