The other night I made a magnificent replica of Olive Garden’s chicken and gnocchi soup. It had a whole stick of butter and two cups of milk and it was Italian perfection.
The problem: it made enough for six people, and Mr. M and I are only two.
I put the pot in the fridge and for the next week chicken and gnocchi stew was our primary lunch option. By the third day, I was really over it.
We were still in the midst of the gnocchi siege when my parents called, saying they would swing by on a Tuesday night – boosting our dinner number from the usual two to seven people. I raced to Kroger on my lunch to buy a fat-laced chuck roast, heirloom carrots and fingerling potatoes. Then I floored it home to get the meal in the crock pot before heading back to work.
The roast turned out perfectly for our company – walking in the door I could smell the herbs I’d rubbed into the meat, the smell of the beef broth and the vegetables, and pretty soon the green beans and rolls began to waft their scents into the air. I set the table carefully with my Blue Willow china and cleaned the kitchen. It’s not every day you have company from 16 hours away!
I put the gnocchi soup on the stovetop as a back up in case people were still hungry… but never served it. After all… it’s leftovers.
Every day I have the opportunity to set a table, make a meal, and have a conversation. Sometimes I put out the china and make a flavorful roast; other times, I toss paper bowls on the table and serve leftover gnocchi soup.
I’m talking about my time with God.
There are days – especially Sundays – where I spend a full time studying the Word, praying through my prayer list, and taking notes on the book of the Bible I am studying. These are the ‘roast beef’ moments; the days where I pull out all the stops for the company of Jesus.
And then there are the work days – the ones when I get up late and rush out the door, more concerned with breakfast than my Bible. I think I’ll do devotions at noon, but change my mind. I plan to do them after dinner and watch a movie instead. These are the gnocchi moments – the days when God is standing at the door, knocking, and I open it disheveled and harried, saying: “Hey God – leftovers for dinner.” And hand Him a paper bowl.
In my year of marriage I have never once served my husband dinner on a paper plate. Most nights I make a pre-planned meal from scratch. I enjoy cooking it, and enjoy his satisfied response to the final product even more. I plan, prepare, and make time to cook because I like seeing my husband happy. I set my table nicely because I want it to be beautiful. I like sitting across from him at the table. I like his presence.
Unfortunately, this attitude loses its luster when it comes to my time in God’s presence. Planning and preparing to spend time with Him seems less important; after all, I can do it whenever I want. He isn’t coming home at 5 PM expecting me.
Or is He?
Does God expect my presence? I think He does. I once heard an analogy: a story about how Jesus agreed to meet every morning with a woman to talk and spend time together. The first few mornings they met, but she got busy and began to miss the meetings. One day, she was rushing past the room where they had been meeting and happened to glance in. Jesus was seated by the fireplace. She pushed the door open.
“Jesus, what are you doing here?!”
“I was waiting for you – just as we agreed.”
“But I’ve forgotten so many times – I thought you wouldn’t be here!”
“You may have forgotten Me, but I never forgot you.”
God expects our presence. I fully realized this as I was re-reading Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love. Like Francis, I have long had an aversion to the idea that God would want to meet with me. He seems too great and mighty for that! So I concentrated on my responsibility to meet with God, certain He welcomed my presence but equally certain He didn’t mind my absence.
Francis noted that the entirety of the gospel points to a God reaching down to man. God desires to have a relationship with man; He longs to be with the children He loves. It may seem hard to believe, but that is the scandal of grace and the ‘craziness’ of His love.
When I realized that God actually wanted to meet with me, I was moved to tears by the idea of Jesus, waiting every morning in my living room as I ironed my dress shirts, packed my lunch, curled my hair and waltzed out the door. For the first time in my life I wondered: Have I hurt God by serving Him my leftovers?
I painstakingly plan meals for my husband, clean my house, and plan my schedule – but when it comes to God, I’ve served Him what’s left. The margin of time before bed, or the 15 minutes between a morning workout and my eggs and bacon – that’s what He gets. I figure I’m living my life for Him, so why does He need more?
But the very reason I call myself a Christian raises the bar of what it means to live this life. It means being so connected to the name I bear that I reflect Him in the life He has given me. How can I do this if I don’t spend time with Jesus Himself? The answer is – I can’t.
If you try to be like Jesus without spending time with Him – if you try to live an abundant life while serving Him the leftovers – you will never know the depth of a true relationship with God. Satan knows this and he uses all his power to distract us by ‘good things’ to keep us from the best, life-changing things – like the presence of God Himself.
So this week, think about your schedule (and I’ll do the same): is God going to get your leftovers, or are you going to pencil Him into your calendar? Where you can spend more time the Victor of your soul, the L over of your heart, and Approver of your person? Find a time that works for you to seek His face and know His heart – He wants to know you.
He is waiting for you.