This past weekend, my new roommate and I did a new thing. We decided to look forward to something fun. A celebration. If feasting is an act of war in this weary world, then we will find ways to fight, Lord help us! We picked a theme of our upcoming Friday evening based entirely on the song “Chicken Fried” by the Zac Brown Band, and we feasted on some of the mentioned vittles in the lyrics. Now, I know what you are thinking—of all songs, why that one? And I pose the playful, child-hearted question, “Why not?” with a smile and twinkly eyes.* We wore jeans (or a jean dress in my case for I have yet to find “a pair of jeans that fit just right” this side of eternity), put on red lipstick, purchased cornflakes, peaches, and cold yeasty golden beverages. I thawed the chicken from the freezer and decided to make peach pie with almond flour half from a recipe and half from my imagination and of course, fried chicken like my grandma used to make with a coating of cornflakes. I had not thought of her chicken in years until we decided on this theme. I asked my two aunts, who did not have converging answers on how to make it like her, but they did not really consider that a particularly special Grandma recipe. I had it enough as a kid to crave it on occasion, and finally, I decided to do something about it. Well, if there’s one thing we are doing more of during the pandemic, it’s cooking right? I experimented with frying and baking it like my respective aunts guessed. It was a passable attempt, but not as good as I remember it from Grandma. I’ll have to work on it, but since my roommate and I are easily pleased, we thought both thought it turned out “pretty good.” We sat outside on the hot August night and listened to our theme song at least four times on repeat and enjoyed the air from our ceiling fan ushering in a semblance of a relief as my dog smelled for rabbits and occupied himself with bugs and squeaked his Kong tennis ball.
Later, when we had our fill and were hot enough, we went inside to cool off and sit at the new (to us) old piano that had to be tuned a half step down so that the strings don’t break. We had planned to sing together for the first time together for a worship night in our home. To be honest, I was having so much fun, I forgot all agenda of the evening and was happy she remembered for me. I plopped on the couch where my dog quickly shadowed me and sat just far enough away not to touch me. He dearly hates to be too hot. And we begin singing, “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” followed by “Fairest Lord Jesus”, a tune I previously only knew as the melody to my middle school’s alma mater. From there we sang and sang and decided that “this one will be the last one” for an extra hour making our worship time up to two full hours choosing favorite hymns and psalms from the psalter. My heart felt light and confident and free. My voice was fading, but I just wanted to sing more. We both did. So we pulled out Phantom of the Opera and belted out “Think of Me”, and “Wishing You Were Somehow Here with Me”, “Past the Point of No Return” and “All I Ask of You.” We belted out the duet to finale and realized we should probably stop for the sake of our vocal chords. We got carried away, one might say.
From there, our sense of adventure was pulling our minds forward still being carried by a desire for more, but our bodies asked for a break. We chose to sink into repose and watch a film, a favorite of my family, Stardust, one that my roommate had previously never seen. As we are introduced to the main character, my heart wells up inside of me with the narrator saying these very words,
“But never mind
how the infant became a boy-
This is the story of
how Tristan Thorn becomes a man,
a much greater challenge altogether-
For to achieve it,
he must win the heart
of his one true love”
Wow. Some dots are connecting in my heart and mind. You see, the past week for me had been full of lament and hope fighting the acute temptation to despair. We collectively as a body of believers are experiencing a season of mourning expectations and learning to wait on the Lord and even more, learning to trust Him day by day. The ebb and flow of these emotions may carry us away in a different way. I don’t know about you, but I felt like 2020 personally attacked me. I also find myself feeling scared to hope again. For whenever things tend to go well, it is just a matter of time before the next "shoe will drop". I didn’t know there were unlimited shoes dropping of bigger and badder proportions, did you? Why are we so surprised that we will suffer and be uncomfortable and have to die to ourselves?And why does it feel so selfish to eat and drink and be merry when so much suffering is going on in the world?
Maybe because we don't see the clear promise of suffering in this broken world. And even greater the promises of consolation until that day when our guaranteed eternal feast will be our true reality.
But let's get back to Tristan. I was thinking about how to become a man he would have to win the heart of his one true love. You can't make someone love you, can you? You can't even buy their love with a priceless piece of a star. That's the beauty of love. It is the very fullness of grace, the purest gift, it has to be free.
And yet somehow, we know love is worth everything. It is very costly, in another respect.
I remembered of a time this past winter during our women's Bible study of the book of Hebrews, we considered Jesus waiting patiently and interceding actively and desiring soberly for His bride, the full body of believers. He fully became a man for our fullness of joy and for the fullness of His glory. He won't force us to love Him, but He did pay the most costly price suffering temptation more than any other human on earth. He humbled himself in obedience to the point of death. And well, that is worth singing about any day. He's won my heart and the heart of countless other wretches who can sing of the amazing grace of how sweet 'tis to trust in Jesus. And the fact that a simple song and the resolve to feast with a friend can help me take heart and Jesus will remind me of His ever loving kindness. He paid it all. And He's waiting with divine forbearance and unimaginable loving mercy and grace for us to be made ready for our special day. And it's going to all turn out just perfectly. Grandma might even make some cornflake fried chicken and I'm certain the singing will never cease and Jesus will show us everything He's been saving for us.
*A more thorough response on why I like this song: I like it. I just do.”Chicken Fried” was on a mixed cd a friend made for me in college to help me convince me to like country music again. I had a beautiful introduction in middle school to the genre by a certain Mrs. Ramsey, our wonderful music teacher. I had long given up on it in high school when it let me down in middle school after my parents divorce with its promise of ballads and beautiful storytelling that turned to a genre of let-down and pathetic country radio songs about fast cars, hot girls, and desperate moments. The only songs that I could count as good were romantic in quality. And well, that made me sad for different reasons so I suppressed those desires and just said “I hate country music.” When I heard this song on my walkman in the art studio in college, I put it on repeat. It made me happy. I liked the feel of it. And well, it got me into country music again. Slowly but surely, with the help of good technology and friends, and honestly a little bit of counseling to help me with all those sad feelings, I heard more bluegrass good quality country music on my long drives traveling that made me believe again.