I never learned to cook. It’s almost embarrassing to admit. Like acknowledging you need assistance in some simple task like tying a shoelace, operating a washing machine or ……steaming vegetables. The ugly truth is that at a time in my life when I would have naturally begun to experiment with cooking food, I went to the seminary and we ate every meal in a refectory. After my ordination I was assigned to a large church with a cook. And after that, well, cooking became a mountain to daunting to scale. Recently I had dinner at the home of some friends and invited them back to my parish apartment to watch a movie and have dessert purchased at a local bakery (as if you needed THAT clarification) and while waiting for the tea my friend noticed a cookbook on the counter displayed for decoration purposes only and suggested we make a date and prepare a dish from the cookbook! “COOK?” “PREPARE RAW FOOD?” “ME?” “NO!” Immediately my mind flooded with objections and excuses, I had cinematic images of dirty pots and pans, scalded fingertips and the most horrific vision of them all: failure.
Why are we so afraid to try something new? I’ll tell you why: the possibility of failure. Eleonora Sharef is quoted in a recent New York Times editorial by Thomas Friedman who is writing about what employers desire in job applicants: “The most successful job candidates, she added, are ‘inventors and solution-finders,’ who are relentlessly ‘entrepreneurial’ because they understand that many employers today don’t care about your resume, degree or how you got your knowledge, but only what you can do and what you can continuously reinvent yourself to do.” This idea of “reinvention” is intriguing to me because I suspect it is a crucial survival tool. Crucial and terrifying because if we are willing to reinvent our carefully constructed and preserved personalities, we might fail. Most people I know define themselves at some life juncture and never make a course correction. But is that not what conversion is all about? Change? The willingness to relentlessly reinvent who we have become; to discard that which is petty, narrow-minded, grumpy and self-righteous.
When Jesus is gathering his followers he would call them and with no interest whatsoever in their past, he asked simply, “will you follow me?” Will you leave behind your routine, familiarity and presumed safety and join me in a great cosmic undertaking? Will you stop fishing and tax collecting and reinvent yourself in an adventure that will be perceived by the people of this age as a monumental failure? I believe God, like the modern day employers in the NYT quote above, is uninterested in our past and in our failures, but rather, fascinated with our willingness to use this great gift of life for inventing and reinventing who we can become every day.