A man I went through high school with passed away on Monday. He was my age: mid-forties. He was the first from my grad class to go. We didn’t really know each other any more. In fact, I hadn’t seen him in almost 20 years.
Still, I am affected. I’m surprised at the level of emotion I feel.
I asked God about it yesterday, I asked Him to show me a picture of what my heart was feeling.
He showed me a picture of my crock-pot.
Hmm, that was unexpected.
As I peered into the slow cooker in my mind’s eye, I saw what appeared to be my mom’s fruit stew. My friends and I called it her “ragout de fruit”. Things always sound fancier in French. We loved the stuff. She made it one month out of the year, in August, when fruit was plentiful. As I held my heart’s gaze into that concoction, something dawned on me.
I saw that life isn’t just one ingredient. It’s not even two ingredients. Life is so much. It’s family and friends and relationships and school and work and fun and horrible stuff and things we can control and things we can’t control. It’s God and nature and beauty and reality and ugliness and simplicity and surprise and the expected. It’s mountain top experiences and the valley of the shadow of death. It’s the overture of birth and the finale of our last breath.
It takes time. A good stew of life (“ragout de la vie” for those of us that like to pretend we live in Europe) doesn’t happen in three to four minutes in the microwave.
It needs to simmer.
It’s taking all the good and all the not so good and then let it bubble. Bitter fruit. Sweet fruit. Tough fruit. Ripe fruit. They need to sit with each other for a while.
And then flavors start to emerge.
Where there was a single taste, now there is bounty. Where one texture was once on the surface, there is now a greater consistency. The quality of one has become the class of many.
Where there was singularity there is now something that no one has ever created before.
There is life.
God assured me that although my former classmate’s stew had not had his threescore and ten to cook away, his life was full of first-rate ingredients. He had had just enough time so his own ragout de la vie tasted exactly how it was supposed to taste.
And I could smile, put the lid back on the slow cooker in my mind’s eye and exhale.
Bonne manger mon ami. (Good eating, my friend)