Pancake Devotions (by Michael D. Bobo)
As the clock turns just past six, I anticipate the sound of little feet and a very loud voice entering my room. My son is a loud talker from 5:30 to 9:00 in the morning. I used to wonder why the volume and the intensity at these God forsaken hours only, but here’s what I have learned. Although I am not a morning person, and I have a tough time getting out of bed even on my best days, there is a spiritual discipline that I am growing in. My devotions do not consist of a book or silence or the usual methods I have been coached in throughout my Christian upbringing. There is little time or focus upon prayer. God is not really present – at least not consciously as a focus for my son and I. You may rightly wonder how can these be devotions? Michael you’ve got to be fooling me. My usual morning routine is one of many joys I have learned to appreciate since becoming a father. It is part of the soul making that happens with my wife and me on a daily basis.
Our recent topic of devotion has been pancakes. For the past month or so, I have been in the school of culinary arts in one area exclusively. Needless to say, my son loves the process of making pancakes. I use the phrase “the process” because he does not always eat all of what he makes. This is key to the devotional aspect. He is an event oriented person. The consequences are not really what matter for him. To what extent truly is irrelevant. My “mature” mind tries to educate him in the value of savoring the product of his labors, but he will not have it. And, so I learn, and he teaches me, that processes are in fact important, too.
The routine has been established by now. He helps pour the ingredients and mix them, while I coach him. It must be comical to observe me deliver the usual fifty or more, “Be careful with . . .” as he gingerly dumps the flour, baking powder, sugar and other items into a mixing bowl. His sense of satisfaction at getting most of the ingredients into the bowl is endearing – even though it means more cleanup after the fact. I have learned the hard way to keep him away from the hot flame in our gas stove. All you mothers reading are flinching right now at the thought of this. Yes he has been burned, not too severely, and I did succumb to my wife’s wisdom and cautionary nature. I am not too sure if his motives are entirely pure. Sometimes I think the real joy is his opportunity to sneak in some cartoons while Dada cooks the batter. Regardless, the process has had its impact upon my soul.
Why share these mundane details with you? This is all part of the discipline. Just as much as he enjoys the process of making pancakes and the time spent slowly eating some of the fruit of his labor, we too have the opportunity to savor our relationships with God and with each other. The process does matter.
Initially, I was task oriented in my approach to my son’s requests. My list consisted of the following steps. All of which were done in the most legalistic fashion.
1st – get up despite my aching body’s resistance.
2nd – organize the ingredients.
3rd – hurry through mixing process.
4th – try to be patient with my son’s inevitable slip ups.
5th – use TV as a baby sitter while I hurriedly pour, flip and cook the pancakes.
6th – coax my fixated son to sit down and try to eat.
7th – wait for him to eat at a turtle’s pace.
8th – rush to clean up after watching the clock with each bite.
9th – hurriedly get dressed for work.
10th- kisses, hugs, rush to work, be late, feel defeated.
Forgive me if I am belaboring the point, but I firmly feel this speaks to our perspectives in our relationships. How often do we perform a duty to get to a final destination that we wanted all along, meanwhile we miss the steps involved and the opportunities to savor each moment? How often does our economic spirituality rob us from true devotion?
What I see in this lesson from a three year old’s craving is so instructive. My perspective is slowly shifting and I am learning how to savor the steps. In doing so, I find myself enjoying each one and learning along the way. A child truly can instruct. I suppose Jesus was right after all. Imagine that!
Why and how could this really be spiritual? Why? – Because it reveals the muck of my heart at a time I would rather be doing something else, namely sleeping. How? – It stems from a loving sacrifice for my son. It requires a measure of both love and sacrifice to really effect the stuff of our souls. That’s the bad news I suppose for some, but the results are evident.
So, here’s how I envision pancake devotions as a spiritual discipline. Getting out of bed is still challenging at times, but I try to see each day as an opportunity and an adventure.
1st – perspective going into the process is vital to finding worth and meaning.
2nd – consistency is key. My son’s appetite for making pancakes has not changed for the past month or more. Every day there is a desire to do it. His persistence, which used to baffle me, is really a discipline. I am a person who loves variety; it is challenging to repeat a task already completed. Why conquer what is already defeated? Because there is a spiritual discipline in continually going through steps together. The consistency, like my son’s appetite, creates time for the steps to work for you.
3rd – savor each step. There will be messes and ingredients will get on the counter top. Time will come to clean up, but don’t miss the making for the cleaning. Being there is what makes this process truly delightful.
4th – enjoy your partner in the task. Whether it is God in your quiet time, your spouse in a book shared together, or whomever else you encounter. This moment by moment realization of the other is crucial to gaining a healthier attitude. What else are you there for but to share in the process?
5th – repeat often.
Obviously pancakes are what work for me, but I suggest you apply these principles in your family and in your relationships. They are soul transforming. As simple as this may sound, it is a discipline. How often do we miss the process for the end results? How often do we read through, rush through, gloss through . . . just to do it? I have spent years of my adult life racing and moving and have not gained the same degree of spiritual insight as I have in these mornings with my son.
I have to laugh at the irony that God has placed in my life. I see each morning with a renewed outlook. My son is my spiritual coach and he doesn’t even know it. He has not produced a fancy DVD series or amassed great fortune. He just loves to storm in my room, yell at me, pull me out of bed and start our daily routine. Our time together is all the compensation he needs. The least I could do is savor the process.
So, next time you go to devote to God, remember the pancakes: perspective, consistency, savor, enjoy, repeat.
Michael D. Bobo is a regular contributor to Burnside Writers Collective. He writes as the Christian Literature Examiner for the National edition of Examiner.com. Read his The Bobo Blog for more of his vignettes on fatherhood, faith and life.