This lovely picture is from last week. Everything started out beautifully. Chuck walked out of his office and said, “Oh my goodness it smells wonderful in here.” I laughed and told him it was the magic of garlic, onions, and olive oil. Great ingredients to begin with then I added Italian sausage, ground beef, red wine, and balsamic vinegar. (Ten points if you can figure out what I was making.) Then I went outside and got distracted…
The next time Chuck came out of his office, he was banging on the door with his foot, trying to get my attention. The pot, now in his hands, was pouring out smoke. I rushed into the house and was instantly enveloped by a grey cloud that reeked of charred meat. Not the eating kind of charred, but the death kind.
We had company arriving in three hours. Dinner is dead and our house makes you want to vomit.
Have you ever scorched a conversation? Or burnt a relationship to a crisp? So much so that your heart hurts for days after? Yeah. Me too. In fact. While supper was burning on the stove, I was distracted by a conversation that had an eerie resemblance. Burnt to a crisp. And reeked for days. So now what?
It is the holy work of Do-Overs. When you know how it could go if you had a chance to start again. To do it better this time. This is how the mess in my house tutored me in the mess of my conversation.
First, the initial assessment:
No fires. Check.
Windows open and fans on. Check.
Chuck is not burned. Check.
Candles lit. Check.
Second, begin acute cleanup.
Whew. The whole area surrounding the stove was a nightmare. Deep cleaning was required. But immediately I got the stovetop and floor cleaned, so I could cook again right away.
Third, still need to feed the company.
The Lord was so kind. He reminded me that I bought two packs of Italian sausage for two different recipes. Ahh.
Thank you, Lord. I had all I needed for a Do-over.
Fourth, I started again.
I got a clean pan and threw in the garlic, onions, and olive oil. This time, I only left the pot once all the ingredients were simmering happily. To be clear, I was making this new fragrant dish while choking back the still-present smoke smell. As I peeled and sliced and stirred, I replayed the fiasco. What had I done wrong? Why had it burned like that?
Not enough liquids. I had sauteed the onions and browned the meat but forgot to add the crushed tomatoes. (Yes, it’s spaghetti sauce.) I had wanted to let the meat cook a bit more but ruined it all instead.
I am telling you this because while I was burning my supper, I was engrossed in a difficult meeting via Zoom on my back porch. Turns out, I scorched the meeting the same way.
So again, what had I done wrong? And what to do now?
One. I had to open the windows and give everybody a minute, including myself to get some fresh air. We were all choking.
Two. I had to clean up the mess. Emotionally, spiritually, relationally.
Three. I had to begin again. And learn from my mistakes. Turned out that my meeting had all the ingredients there, just like my sauce. We just needed to add a little extra liquid— insight, courage, wisdom, and even Living Water. Smile. And I needed to stir and simmer it longer.
Can I tell you this is a code word in my family? Chuck and me, and the kids, would often come back after some charred moment and ask: Can I have a Do-Over? I can do that better than I did right there.
Do you know that we still had a lovely spaghetti dinner that night? Even that was healing for me. It reminded me I am a good cook. Just like I am a good friend and leader. I just have to keep my focus and clean up my messes.
Honestly, the hardest thing for me was enduring the stench. For days when I walked in my house or leaned too close to the exhaust fan, (oh the irony) I could smell traces of it all over again. The stench reminded me of the stinging in my heart and the hurt to others. But we keep learning. We keep cleaning. We keep trying to be our best selves.
Lord, we thank you for Holy Do-Overs. Thank you for mercy. Thank you for healing. Thank you for good meals after bad ones. And good relational laughs after tears. Amen.