Not long ago in the Clark home we had some unbelievably amazing lasagna.
I’m embarrassed to say that I am fairly vocal when eating good food. Perhaps you remember this classic scene from What About Bob?
Sarah enjoys cooking, and I enjoy eating. Early on in our marriage I can remember Sarah making a particular entrée or side, and I would arrive at the dinner table and think to myself, “Hmmm…I’ve never really liked that, but I guess I’ll give it a try. I won’t say anything just yet. That way I can hide from her what a jerk I am.” (Yeah, I know…). Anyway, she would always surprise me, and I would confess, “Normally, I don’t really like this, but it’s unbelievable!”
Well, not quite 15 years later I’m religiously committed to Sarah’s culinary skills: whatever she puts on my plate, I can’t wait to partake. Which bring us back to the lasagna.
It was celestial. I have no culinary ability myself, and my culinary vocabulary is likewise extremely limited (“Hey, um, is there any more of that…stuff…, please? And what about that other stuff–can I have some of that, too?”), so I can’t really tell you why it was so good.
I would speculate that it was, partly, the pasta (Sarah made it), the sausage (which she got somewhere special), and–mmmm (see I’m being vocal even as I describe it)–all the cheeses! And don’t forget the ripened tomatoes. And lots of fresh parsley.
As I was enjoying my lasagna (with a simple glass of three-buck-Chuck merlot, btw), I exclaimed, “Thank you, Jesus, for this lasagna!”
For whatever reason this gave me pause. Should Jesus really get the credit for this sublime lasagna? It’s one thing to utter these words as a bland religious expression. It’s another to actually “connect the dots” between Jesus and lasagna, so that, apart from Jesus, I would not have the pleasure of indulging in this tasty dish. Can that be done?
Absolutely. It’s actually quite simple.
Earlier I mentioned that Sarah and I have been married not quite 15 years. We didn’t have a honeymoon year. In fact, we have had some really challenging times, but challenging times that God has used to build our relationship. We have hurt each other. A lot. But like a broken bone (well, so I’m told–I don’t really know anything about broken bones), when it heals, it actually grows back stronger than before. (Is that right, you medical people who read this?)
So why has this happened in our marriage? That is, why have the challenging times made us stronger, for the most part, instead of weakening or even destroying our relationship?
It was by year 3 or 4 of our marriage that Sarah and I could–and did–tell people that, if it were not for something called the gospel (the central message of Christianity), then we would quite probably no longer be married. We would still have many rough times ahead (and I’m sure we still do), but one thing I have learned from the few years we have had together so far is this:
conflict + the gospel = intimacy
But this is only a general formula that can be applied specifically to our marriage and even to the issue at hand, so that it looks like this (you mathematicians will appreciate this):
conflict(B/S) + the gospel = intimacy(L)
That is, conflict between Bruce and Sarah (B/S) plus the gospel equals intimacy, expressed in terms of lasagna (L).
Fairly simple math, really. But it’s important math.
Nothing demands–and enables–both confession and forgiveness like the cross of Jesus.
The cross is the ultimate critique of both Sarah and me, worse than any critique we could bring against each other (even after 15 years–and that’s saying a lot). And it is a public critique: that is, the cat is already out of the bag; from the cross I know that I deserve to be crucified, and I know that she deserves the same (and vice versa). The cross is the just punishment, for which we need only to confess the crimes. I should not be surprised at either my sin (“How could I…?!”) or her sin (“How could she…?!”).
In this way the cross demands–and enables–confession.
But the cross is also the ultimate welcome, the most palpable act of forgiveness and love. There can be no greater expression of love. Indeed, “this is how we know what love is,” says John. How can I not forgive, when I have been forgiven so much? When I know such great mercy from God, how can I not show mercy for my spouse? The cross demands–and enables–forgiveness.
And it does so precisely so that we can love and enjoy one another. Jesus died so that I could have reconciliation with God and (therefore) with Sarah, so that I can enjoy Him and her. And part of enjoying Sarah (by no means the best part, but the part that is most relevant to our discussion) is enjoying her amazing lasagna.
God reconciled us to himself through Jesus, so that we could enjoy Him forever and so that we could enjoy all that He has created: other people, human civilization in all its astonishing diversity and depth–e.g., literature, the performing and visual arts, vocational and recreational pursuits, which include the culinary arts.
And that means lasagna.
That’s why Jesus gets the credit for lasagna.