The Right Ingredients

We are excited to introduce a new guest blogger, Brian Miller! Join us today as he shares an honest snapshot of a prodigal's journey and gives a picture of God's plan for your life as a recipe for success when you start with the right ingredients.
Too many cooks inevitably spoil the soup.
I think that adage is about committees.
I tend to be a committee of one.
It turns out I’m pretty good at spoiling my soup all by myself.
I should qualify that as an erstwhile starving writer and a bachelor for a dozen years, I used to be a semi-pro at digging out whatever little was left in the cupboard and coming up with something edible, even tasty.
There were lean times. I was so poor, I clipped coupons for ramen noodles AND waited for them to go on sale. I was so poor, I couldn’t afford to pay attention.

And I was a terrible cook. Not with actual food so much, but with the ingredients of life. Nothing I combined ever tasted well. Or if it seemed to, I paid for it later.

I deceived myself into thinking that my Christian morals would influence my ungodly friends to be better people and was surprised when the opposite was true.

The problem was, I was cooking with the wrong ingredients, and often just plain lacked the right ones. I invited too many cooks to the kitchen, and as it says in I Corinthians 15:33 (NIV): “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’”
Fun was my ingredient of choice, my soup base. I was always looking to add more fun.

Instead of good friends who would call me out when I was wrong and turn me to God’s Word, I added sycophants and enablers.
I deceived myself into thinking that my Christian morals would influence my ungodly friends to be better people and was surprised when the opposite was true. Though I wouldn’t have been shocked if I had been in God’s Word and in a right relationship with my Creator and Savior.
I had learned many verses when I was young, like “I have treasured Your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11, NASB), and “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers” (Psalm 1:1, NIV). But those verses were buried in the deep recesses of my heart’s cupboard, and I rarely considered them essential in my life.
So, in place of what’s right, I added expedience. Instead of truth, I settled for lies.
When the world that once told me what potential I possessed failed to deliver me what that potential had promised, I mixed in bitterness.

When the world told me it wasn’t my fault, that I was the victim of bad circumstances, tough breaks, and horrible bosses, I doubled down on victimhood.
When the world told me that life was all about me, I sampled narcissism.

I added a dash of anger, a spoonful of envy, and layers of shame and guilt, but always liberal doses of pride and selfishness.
It was a bubbling, rancid cauldron of regret, depression, and sorrow. All the fun that had seemed so appealing at the outset instead tasted burnt to a crisp. I choked on it.

Soon wasted was the last of my innocence. One day I ran out of optimism. The next to go was all but a glimmer of hope. But somehow, I always had fresh supplies of fear.
Finally, I was down to the dregs of my faith. I had wasted most of it on things you shouldn’t have faith in—other humans, my good intentions, youth, that I had all the time in the world, and other fairy tales. I was flavorless salt; despair and stubborn self-sufficiency shrouded my light.
I am beyond thankful that God honored that small grain of faith, when like the Prodigal Son, I “came to my senses” and realized I had a Father who loved me, who longed for reconciliation. I am grateful to know that “You will seek Me and find Me when You search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13, NASB), and I praise Him who “brought me out of the pit of destruction … and set my feet upon a rock” (Psalm 40:2, NASB).
As the song says, “That Rock is Jesus, yes, He’s the one!”
I still have trouble paying attention, but not because I’m poor, and not that I’m rich either. Except that I am. I’m rich in love. Because God loved me. He loved me at my darkest. He loved me when I was choking on the awful soup that I had cooked for myself. He never stopped loving me even as I ran away from Him, eager for my freedom and independence to live as I wished, headlong down a path that led to death.
He is the Good Shepherd, who left the ninety-and-nine, who came to rescue me, the wandering, woefully lost sheep. He is the Good Shepherd, who not only rescued me from the harrowing path on which I’d embarked, but also laid down His life for me—for me, who had thought I was better off living my life as a rebel, out of His will, flaunting His unending grace.
So it is, I realize now, that the ingredient I need to start with is not fun. It’s love. Not the fanciful, fleeting, capricious romantic type of love. Not even brotherly love. But agape. Selfless, sacrificial love. Love that eliminates all those ingredients like envy and hate and haughtiness that create bitter lives. Love that adds kindness, patience, humility, and joy. Love that seeks the best for others.
It’s the start of the best recipe for a happy, God-honoring life.

Matthew 5:13 NASB
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by people.

1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

Author Bio:
Brian Miller is a longtime newspaper columnist and freelance writer. He and his wife Bethany, a fellow “preacher’s kid,” split their time between Eveleth, MN, and South Padre Island, TX. The Millers are involved with their church’s youth group and summer Bible camp and are seeking God’s will for future ministry opportunities. The preceding was a revision of a newspaper column he wrote in 2018.

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