When Barb and I were dating (we were 15 & 16) she soon became a regular at our house. Though we lived 4 miles apart (6.4 km) and in a different school district she thought nothing of riding her bicycle or driving to my house after school where we (mom, me, 2 brothers and 1 sister) lived in a country neighborhood.
This particular day our class at high school was holding a bake sale the next day to raise funds for something, and I was making cupcakes to help the effort. As Barb remembers it my mom was back in her office working on the books for her work, my brothers and sister were off doing other things, and I was alone in the kitchen.
I had gotten a box mix and had the batter ready to pour into the paper cups for the cupcakes. That was when Barb walked in – as I said by that time she was already practically part of our family so she just walked in freely and came into the kitchen. What she saw when she entered the kitchen stopped her in her tracks.
I had gotten out a cookie sheet and lined up all the paper cups in neat rows on the cookie sheet, and was just about to pour the batter into the first cup – and Barb says, “John. What you are doing?” I said “My class is having a bake sale tomorrow so I’m making cupcakes.” She said something like “Really? What do you think is going to happen when you pour that batter into those cups?”
I really thought that was a stupid question as it was obvious I was baking cupcakes! Rather than stopping me (this should have been a clue to future interactions between us) she said, “Why don’t you go ahead and pour one.” I was suspicious of her grin and obvious enjoyment of what I thought was nothing more than watching her big strong boyfriend bake. Ohhhh how wrong I was. I was so ignorant and innocent I didn’t know I was being set up.
You know what happened next – I hope you do at least – as I poured the batter into the first cup on the cookie sheet the paper flattened out and the batter enveloped the now flattened paper cup and went all over the cookie sheet, the counter and dripped onto the floor like lave flowing out of a volcano. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how women got those paper cups to stand up to the pressure of the batter. Maybe the batter solidified quickly at the first sign of the heat of the oven I thought to myself.
I don’t recall seeing cupcake support things around the kitchen that would obviously be needed to make the paper stand up to the batter- maybe mom used some sort of semi-circular form to wrap around the cups. Maybe I could get some aluminum foil to wrap tightly around the paper – all these thoughts went through my naive brain in a matter of seconds. What was I doing wrong?
Barb stayed back watching the learning process. Oh wise 16 year old that she was, she was having fun with me like a cat bats a mouse around before going in for the kill. Finally she stepped in after I had carefully folded each fold in the next paper cup thinking helping the little creases in the paper might strengthen it, but as I started to pour cupcake #2 she mercifully stopped me and put me out of my misery. When I asked “What am I doing wrong?” then and only then did she say “You’re supposed to put the paper cups into a cupcake tin.” Of course I asked “What’s a cupcake tin?” And then at nearly the top of my lungs “Mom! Do we have any cupcake tins?”
Then I had 2 women laughing at me as mom came upon the scene and Barb through her tears of laughter explained what I was trying to do. THAT was the last time I tried to make cupcakes, and as I write this I’m 59 years old!
What the Father taught me that day…
…was to be teachable. To take a step back from future projects before I ever started them to see the whole process from start to finish. To know each step along the way and know for certain what materials were needed, what each step would look like, and to be open to instruction and learning.
I didn’t know it then, but that lesson served me well in later years when assembling cheap furniture, fixing toilets, plumbing under the sink repair, installing a garbage disposal, wiring a ceiling fan, fixing a lawn mower, and other things around the house too numerous to mention. But there was a larger lesson to be learned.
Rule the house?
As I said last week, my earth-dad wasn’t in my life much at all in my teen years, so it was the Father God I looked to on how to be a (future) husband and father. One day after the cupcake incident of 1975 with thoughts of how to be a good husband on my mind, I was reading I Timothy 5:14:
“I want therefore the younger widows to marry, have children, rule the household, and give no occasion for the enemy…”
I said, “Father! Paul said the wives were to rule the house, but I thought the husband was the head of the house!?!” Immediately He responded. “What is the house?” I thought for a second then replied, “The house is the physical building, the electrical, the plumbing, the walls, decorations, roof and so on.” “Very well. And what is the home?”
Immediately my mind flashed to our friends the Harvey’s. When I went to their house it always felt like love – peaceful, secure, and safe, so I responded; “The home is the intangible qualities of the house like love and peace and safety and feeling secure.” He said, “Very well. The wife is the head of the house, and the husband the head of the home. Can you understand that?”
I said, “I’ve never heard that before. But that means if the wife is to rule the house as Paul said, then if the kitchen sink is clogged she can fix it herself. (I was genuinely trying to figure it out, but I admit I thought I had Him with that comment) He replied; “She may fix it herself, or she can delegate it to her husband. For if the house isn’t in good working order the intangibles of the home will suffer. So it is up to the husband to make sure the intangible qualities you spoke of are maintained, meaning he would need to fix the sink if she doesn’t want to do it. That’s part of laying down your life for her.”
Ever since that teenage moment I’ve been keenly aware of my responsibility as head of the home as Barb is head of the house. That lesson served me well in our first month of marriage in our tiny apartment located at 20 Beechtree Court, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The kitchen trash bin was full, and of course the trash container is part of the house. Barb stated the obvious: “The trash can is full. You need to empty it.” I said, “You topped it off; you empty it.” She said “No. That’s your job, I’m not going to empty it.”
The first rule if you want to get out of a hole is to stop digging that hole.
I didn’t know that then, so I said, “In my house whoever topped off the trash can was the one who had to empty it.” She replied, “In my house my dad always emptied the trash.” That’s when I stopped digging by remembering the Father’s lesson above. I’ve been emptying the trash ever since because…if the house isn’t working properly and in good order, the home will not have those intangible qualities of love, peace, security and safety.
Many people enter into relationships for what the other person can do for them. How many marriages fail, friendships fail, careers fail, because people are entering into a relationship not for what they can give to the workplace or friendship or marriage, but what that spouse, that friend, that job can do for them?
I wanted to give those cupcakes for the good cause, but I needed teaching on how to do it – my heart was in the right place but my method was wrong. The fact is, human nature judges others by their actions, but we judge ourselves by our motive. And the unteachable person demands they be judged by their motives – they don’t want anyone to correct them as to method, they just scream out for someone to see their good heart, their good motive. But we must be teachable as to our actions.
Relationships are built not only on motive, but action. God so loved the world…but what if He stopped there? What if His motive was for us, what if He loved us…but that is all we knew of HIm? It is the last half of that verse that made a difference in our lives: “…that He gave His only begotten Son…” John 3:16 He loved, so He gave. Simple.
Motive, action, teachability. Maintain or repair the intangible qualities in your relationships. A person may have to build a considerable track record of success to restore the trust he or she once had. That trust is part of the intangibles. A person may have to learn not to lie against or abuse nor speak ill of in public the person they say is their friend, spouse, or neighbor, co-worker – and it will take time to build a record of right words and actions.
BUT…let our actions revolve around the intangible qualities that make that house a home, that friendship more than a casual acquaintance. Work toward building up the fruit of the Spirit in a relationship, things such as love, joy, peace, gentleness, patience, kindness…Love, so demonstrate that love, being teachable along the way…
Another story from the past next week, until then, blessings,