Here’s a little window into our lives: Last Tuesday, when I arrived home from work, my wonderful wife was busily, and proudly preparing another wonderful meal for her family, something she doesn’t love but does anyway because she loves us.
“Honey, sweetheart, pudding pop,” she asked me as she stood there amidst the wafting aromas of goodness in her apron and perfectly coiffed hairdo, manicured nails, rosy cheeks, cute little outfit, and angelic smile, “would you mind cooking this chicken on the grill tonight?”
(Just so you know, this is a dramatization to enhance the story. Just go with me on this.)
She smiled again and pleaded with her eyes while lifting two gallon-sized plastic bags out of the refrigerator that were filled with marinating chicken breasts. (It takes a lot of chicken to feed our family!)
I sighed heavily, rolled my eyes, and started to say, “sure, but why do I have to do everything around here?” Then, much to my relief, I came to the wonderful realization that the propane tank for the grill was empty and hadn’t been refilled after the last time I was forced had the opportunity to make dinner. Yay!
My wife was deflated, and I was relieved and we spent the next 30 minutes trying to figure out what to have for dinner, before Renee got that determined look in her eyes and prepared two skillets to cook the chicken on the stove top, which I ended up doing anyway because I had a guilty conscience, while Renee just stood there in that cute little apron with those rosy cheeks and a baby on her hip and watched me do everything, while I pouted with as much exaggeration as I could muster.
(A little more drama, here, but only the part about Renee’s apron.)
But anyway, that’s all beside the point.
The point is this: Marinated chicken tastes like whatever’s in the marinade sauce juice liquid stuff.
Seriously, we had two bags of chicken and each bag had different spices in the marinade.
The chicken tasted like the spices that were included in its own unique marinade.
Chicken is actually pretty bland tasting in its most basic form, just like plain old kids. I mean there’s some genetic stuff happening that affects the texture and taste a bit, but generally, the spices make all the difference.
You know what I’m saying.
You can stick spices on the outside of the chicken, but that’s pretty superficial, and if you get a bite of the inside without the spices on the outside, well . . . it can be bland no matter what gene pool it came from.
If you marinate that chicken, though, then the inside takes on the strong flavor of whatever’s been on the outside.
It’s like magic.
So, my point is (just in case you’re a guy and you can’t get my point) that whatever stuff you put in the marinade is what your kid will taste like when the world cooks them and eats them, just like the chicken.
This takes a bit of forethought. The longer you marinate the chicken (or the kid) the more flavor seeps into the innards. You can’t wait until it’s time for cooking to soak them. For chicken, overnight is good, but for kids, well . . .
Frankly, kids are being soaked in something no matter whether you plan it or not. They are soaking up their surroundings. More like sponges than chickens really, but that messes up the metaphor.
So, if you don’t plan it, kids will just soak up whatever you leave them sitting by. If you plan it, they’ll still soak it up, but then you’re responsible for the planning. You take your chances either way.
My recommendation is this: pick your oil and spices carefully, maybe something a little different, but just as savory, for each kid, and let them soak in it often and for as long as possible.
When the world squeezes them, in the case of the sponge metaphor, whatever is in them will come out.
When the world cooks them and eats them, in the case of the chicken metaphor, they’ll either become tasty, nutritional edification for the world (a.k.a. their families and communities), or one of these other things will happen: they’ll make people sick, or be tolerated as bland and unappealing, or get spit out and go to waste.
(More dramatization there, I hope you know. Nobody is going to cook and eat your children. Furthermore, there are probably a few other options about how they can turn out. It’s not really meant to be taken literally.)
Of course, Jesus specializes in redeeming leftovers and salvaging meals from dumpsters, but that’s another post.
With your kids, you, the loving parent, are the chef. Own it. Make it tasty.