Have you ever played the Cooking Mitt Game at a party? The gist is that each person takes a turn unwrapping a gift that is hidden under layers and layers of wrapping paper. To make things interesting, when it is your turn, you don cooking mitts.
Each contestant clumsily gropes at the wrapping paper through the thick mitts – sometimes illegally using teeth – just to get one layer closer to the hidden treasure.
The simple task of opening a present is transformed into an epic adventure. You need grit and determination just to get a good handle on that wrapping paper, let alone give it a rip. Every time I play it, I get quite hilarious. My adrenaline gets pumping and I jump up and down like a little girl until I take my turn to thump around the box with my big, padded hands.
Lately, I feel like I always have cooking mitts on my hands.
Every day feels like a clumsy struggle: as if the good life is hidden in an overly-wrapped box and I’m trying to unwrap it, but can’t begin to get a good grasp on it.
(It should go without saying that when it comes to real life, figurative cooking mitts are not nearly as invigorating as the padded ones in the party game. Instead of feeling exuberant, I feel cloudy and distracted.)
I want to live a meaningful life for Christ, but I feel hampered by my sin. I embrace the day, but quickly feel encumbered by cultural demands, interrupted sleep, laziness, selfishness, the tyranny of the urgent, the daily grind, and an uncertainty about what I really should do with my time, energy, and gifts.
I find that all of this thumping around is a waste of time. We are only given one life. God doesn’t want us to clumsily grope through to the end.
How can we know that we are stewarding our lives well before the Lord?
How can we feel satisfied that we are obeying and honoring God from day to day?
Recently, I felt so disheartened by the distractions that blurred my life. I cried out to God for help, “Please help me out of this blundering! Must I wear these cooking mitts??”
That’s when I read “Tyranny of the Urgent,” in which Charles E. Hummel writes, “Not hard work, but doubt and misgiving produce anxiety as we review a month or a year and become oppressed by the pile of unfinished tasks. We sense uneasily our failure to do what was really important. The winds of other people’s demands, and our own inner compulsions, have driven us onto a reef of frustration.”
Hummel wonders how Jesus made the astonishing claim, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17: 4).
“We wonder how Jesus could have talked about a completed work. His three-year ministry seemed all too short.” Hummel writes that Jesus’ “life showed a wonderful balance, a sense of timing.”
Nothing inhibited Jesus from doing the things that mattered in light of eternity.
Nothing distracted Him. He didn’t clumsily bounce around from idea to idea, He wasn’t pushed-and-pulled from one urgent need to another, and He wasn’t laden-down by sin.
How did Jesus live free of the encumbrances that I know all-too-well?
The answer is found in Mark 1:35, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
Hummel writes, “Jesus had no divinely drawn blueprint or schedule; he discerned the Father’s will day by day in a life of prayer. Because of this he was able to resist the urgent demands of others and do what was really important for his mission.”
These insights to Jesus’ focused and obedient life give me hope that I, too, may daily seek God’s guidance and empowerment to do (only) the work that God wants me to do.
When it comes to pursuing the Kingdom of God, cooking mitts are optional. In fact, they are highly discouraged. In Hebrews 12, we are compelled to,
“…throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
One thing is certain: Jesus did not wear cooking mitts.
So, off with the cooking mitts, my friend!
Life is not a blundering, silly game. We don’t have to grope around for the hidden meaning in each day.
Life is an intentional walk with the God of the universe; with the One who orchestrates all things, who doesn’t do a single, clumsy, misguided thing, the One who wants us to live with precision, focus, and intentionality.
That’s why we imitate Jesus, completely depending upon God.
We pray every day, asking our Heavenly Father to guide us through our day.
We ask Him for power to be and do the things He wants for us.
In the asking, we are putting ourselves in a posture of faith. God graciously grants our request.
When I begin my day by seeking God’s guidance and power, I can look back over the day and see that God did, indeed, guide me. He orchestrated work for me to do. He provided opportunities for me to obey Him, glorify Him, and love Him.
My life is freely His own.
This is just what I’ve always wanted: in my open hands is the gift of a God-guided life – one day at a time.