On the hottest two days of the year, I kept my oven running for seven hours making five batches of Christmas cut-out cookies and gingerbread men and caramel corn. Next the cookies had to be iced and then arranged and wrapped on individual take-out styrofoam trays. This was my latest brainchild for our church to make money (itself!) for our church building project.
Unfortunately, the next four days were rainy, which was the first strike against my new business idea. One day during a more dry but still drizzly spell, four teen girls walked around the strip mall nearby and tried to sell them. This actually was the second strike–they are very timid. (Yet I am happy and proud of their efforts!) But the final strike came when careless potential buyers broke several cookies, and of course, never bought them. How could I sell broken cookies? We made a total of $2, which wouldn’t pay off my efforts. I had hoped to make between $20-$30, which would have bought about three more bags of cement for our foundation.
My high hopes crashed. I had really thought it might work to capitalize on Christmas cash with pretty cookies around here, but it didn’t. Sigh. I could write a whole article on the worldview that doesn’t value other people’s work or personal responsibility. That my labors were ruined on top of the failed venture was really hard to swallow. This was a low missionary moment for me, I’ll admit. All sorts of not-so-nice names came to mind for these crumblers-of-cookies (and therefore profit).
And it’s not like I had anything else to do, right? I had sacrificed Christmas baking for the family, homeschooling time, personal hobbies, and sleep for this endeavor.
Well, I was advised by a friend to make lemonade with my lemons (or should I say, ice cream topping from my crushed cookies?), and I did manage to salvage enough un-crumbed cookies and caramel corn for Christmas presents for neighbors and for an adult Christmas party Sunday afternoon.
But I felt discomfited–because of the situation, as well as my response to it. I was frustrated. This was now my fifth idea for what to sell, and I was pretty optimistic that it would be a hit, especially at this time of year when they sometimes buy a little extra for Christmas.
“What in the world will they buy?” I wondered. I had thought the eye-candy of something related to Christmas would appeal to them. I should have known that “new-to-them” would not be an easy sell to people who still call butter by the brand name of the original distributor of butter and pop by the brand name of the original distributor of pop (Coke), and whose lack of tradition regarding Christmas (outside of a day off of work, maybe some extra food, and a time to drink) would render cookies in the shapes and colors of Christmas meaningless.
But why did they have to break the cookies on top of not buying them? I had even anticipated this and warned the teen girls to be careful. That was the straw that broke this camel’s back. (Not a pretty picture, I know, but neither were my hopes.) My mind started down the road to reviewing faults of the Tsonga culture related to their manhandling of my carefully prepared cookies. Unbidden, but too indulged, a memory arose of two people at the nearby bakery each gripping three loaves of bread in succession and leaving finger holes in the loaves, before taking the fourth loaf, which was no different in softness than the former three now-mangled loaves still sitting on the shelves.
Why did they do that? This was so unfair! Yet another unseen, unthanked sacrifice for the Tsonga people to add to my list–not that I was keeping a list, of course!
That night, the passage of time having lessened some of my angst, I sat with the family listening to my husband read our daily devotional for advent, from Psalm 22.
“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.”
The commentary said,
“Though he would be innocent, the Lamb of God would take the punishment for sin upon Himself. God gave His people a picture of how He would die–surrounded by scoffers and unbelievers, exhausted in body and soul. His hands and feet would be pierced as they hung Him up to die, and His killers would disrespect Him so much that they would gamble for His leftover clothes.”
The Holy Spirit used my overly-tuned sense of justice to enlighten me as to how frustrated I would have been in Jesus’ situation–a truly unfair one! He took cruel punishment He did not deserve, with no thanks or understanding, even by those He was closest to. Not to mention the slights and humiliation offered by his enemies.
He left the continuously offered worship and glories of Heaven and came to a place where the “manners” and “culture” of the people must have felt very degraded indeed. He “made himself of no reputation, took upon him the form of a servant, humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” He was unthanked, persecuted, hurt, grievously misunderstood, blamed, and sullied; yet He loved us and gave Himself freely for us.
And what are some cookie crumbs in comparison to that? I lay my hand on my mouth and shed a thankful tear.