I recently discovered a secret ingredient even more important than cheese.
I know, I didn’t think this was possible either. But it’s true. And this secret ingredient is so unique, it is added not by the chef during cooking, but by the consumer right before eating. Here is the story of how I discovered it.
During Lent, my church hosts Lenten soup and sandwich suppers on Wednesday evenings before service. Each week, two people bring soup and the fellowship committee provides sandwiches. Last week, I volunteered to bring soup. I was determined to improve on my previous year’s contribution that tasted like soggy vegetables in water. This year, I had a plan.
That morning I swung by the church on my way to work. I dumped some rice in my crockpot along with cooked and seasoned chicken, vegetables, diced tomatoes, and chicken broth. It smelled amazing. I was so excited. For once, I was going to make something good. I fired up the crockpot and went to work.
That evening I bounced into the fellowship hall carrying visions of simmering soup. One of the other ladies was bringing my crockpot out of the kitchen, and the sight stopped me dead in my tracks.
There, in her hands, was an erupting mound of primordial goo. It was expanding even as I watched, bubbling and clawing as though trying to escape from the pot.
“I wasn’t… sure what to do…” she began, pot held at armslength. And then seeing the look on my face, “But it will be okay. Here.” She added the tiny can of leftover broth I had left on the counter and tried unsuccessfully to stir it. “There. See. That’s better…”
I stared at my masterpiece in horror. “I must have put in too much rice,” I said. And worse – the rice had cooked down to the consistency of paste.
Enter the rest of the evenings attendees.
“What kind of soup do we have tonight?” Pastor asked
“Um,” I said. “I was going to call it Italian Chicken, but it’s really more like a casserole.”
“Let’s pray,” Pastor said.
So we prayed, and then I bravely dug into my crock pot. If I was going to make these people eat my soup, then I was going to eat it too. I pried a spoonful from the pot with an audible “thwuck.”
And this, my friends, is where the secret ingredient gets added.
The first bite almost made me gag, and I’ve had years of practice with my cooking. But those people ate my soup without wincing, and even made nice comments.
“We appreciate you bringing the soup tonight,” they said.
“Your soup has a nice flavor,” they said.
“My father always said soup was good if you could stand your spoon up in it,” they said.
And I sat there thinking: Only the power of God could equip someone to say nice things about this soup.
I could learn a thing or two from these people. About humility. About gratefulness. About kindness. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23a).
“Be kinder than you have to be,” I read once. “Because you never know what the other person is facing.” I saw this demonstrated first-hand that night. They didn’t have to eat my soup. There were sandwiches; there was another pot of soup that someone else had brought. They could have ignored mine entirely. But they did not. They added a secret ingredient that made even my soup palatable.
Be kind to one another, Paul admonished (Ephesians 4:32).
We all have opportunities a dozen times a day where we could choose to be kind. It’s far easier to be busy, harsh, self-centered, negative, stressed… But whatever we’re facing right now, we are called to make a conscience effort toward kindness.
Take time today to be kind. And when your initial reaction is something other than kindness, please pause and remember that your situation could be worse.
You could be sitting down to a bowl of my soup.
Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another (Zechariah 7:9).