Finding Goodness in a Fleeting World
"In the face of death's inevitability, life and all we do in it can seem rather pointless."
If you've lived long enough, you know there is nothing quite like death to bring you face to face with life’s futility. Despite dreams, desires, and plans, death pulls the plug on our lives. And like our lives, the things we build or acquire for ourselves—accomplishments, possessions, relationships—fade away as well. In the face of death's inevitability, life and all we do in it can seem rather pointless.
As some of you may know, I unexpectedly lost my mom this March. In the wake of her passing, I have found myself grappling with life's seeming futility. Meaninglessness threatens to overshadow the value of all the things I think worthwhile: friendship, cooking, rock climbing, work, etc. In more difficult moments, the fleetingness of the world has me wondering if there is anything worth doing at all.
Yet, in the midst of grief and futility, I’ve recently found myself spending more time in the kitchen. In the past month, I’ve made homemade squid ink pasta, cooked roast lamb for 20 friends, and baked more pies than I can keep track of. (My housemates have dubbed me the unofficial, live-in chef.) Each time I step into the kitchen, I sense I am stepping into a sanctuary. For a short while, the voice of vanity is silenced, and I enter into a place where every particle of butter in my pie crust is fat with purpose.
This week on the blog, Steven Carter writes on how the imagery of the Luttrell Psalter, a medieval illuminated text, depicts physical labor as an essential part of worship. To our contemporary culture which often views the material world as fundamentally meaningless or as an obstacle to transcendent, spiritual meaning, this medieval Psalter presents an alternative: “the work of our hands is intimately connected with the work of the spirit.” As we navigate life and worship, the human body and the natural world are gifts for worship, not obstacles to it. We are called not just to work with our minds, but with our bodies, “taking pleasure in our work by recognizing that we, as Christians, all work for a common end—the glorification of He who gave us hands to work and bodies to praise.”
In the face of futility, it seems counterintuitive doting on sauces, finessing pie crusts, or getting in routines of chopping fresh rhubarb. In many ways, food is supremely fleeting. Why spend hours chilling pie pastry, only to have my 12 housemates devour my pie in a matter of minutes? Like the imagery of physical labor in the Luttrell Psalter, pie crusts and lamb roasts are gifts that reveal the resident goodness of our present, even if fleeting, world.
Ultimately, for those in Christ, while we lament goodness wherever it is lost in this life, we do not live as those without hope. For as fleeting as good things may be in this world, we know that they are sourced in the one who is Goodness Himself, and that they signal our eternal, imperishable inheritance in Christ.
Until next time,
On behalf of the Perishable Goods Team