A couple weeks ago the girls and I drove to church in a light rain. Mark was a few minutes behind us, driving separately so he could help with tear down after service (our church meets in a school). As we pulled into the parking lot, I hesitated. How was I going to get the three of us inside without getting soaked?
Finally, I decided that a.) I really needed to buy one of those giant golf umbrellas and b.) I would park by the front door, run the girls in and then go back to park the car. Surely my seven-year-old could corral my one-year-old for the three minutes it would take me, right?
Heh. That was never going to happen, but it was the best plan I could come up with that morning. So I put the car in park and hustled the girls to the front door, scooting them inside as I rattled off directions: Just stand here. Hold your sister’s hand. I’ll be right back. No, stay here. I’m coming right back!
One of the door greeters — and a friend — said good morning right about then. He often looks amused as we bumble our way into church, one of us with crazy hair because she pulled out her ponytail again, one of us with tangled hair because she screams when I get close to her with a hairbrush, and one of us with wet hair . . . because who has time for a blow dry? But this week, the greeter simply smiled and said, “Do you want me to park your car?”
Limp with gratitude, I handed over my keys and stood with my antsy girls as he jogged through the drizzle to my car. In less time than it took me to smooth our hair and clothes, he was back. I thanked him and we were on our way.
When I got into my car after church that day, I looked at my clean floor mats and wondered if my friend had noticed how neat my car is. (Mark and I have an ongoing debate about the required level of cleanliness for a family vehicle.) (Because one of us is a nut about keeping a spotless car.) (It’s not me. In case you were confused.)
Then I turned the ignition and glanced at the dash, and I thought, “I sure am glad I had the radio on K-LOVE!”
As if my friend would have cared if I’d had the radio tuned to the pop station, like it so often is. Um, no. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have thought a thing about it. And if he had, he might have questioned my taste in music but probably not my parenting or commitment to Christ.
And yet my first response was relief that my car made me look good, like someone who is so good? righteous? holy? that she only listens to Christian music.
I thought about all that last week when my daughter was frosting a foam cake. She was playing with a bakery craft kit and wanted some inspiration for her creation. So we pulled up Pinterest, and I showed her some pictures of wedding cakes. Her final product was a beautiful green and white masterpiece. Of course it was, she told me, and it would taste delicious, too.
Thankfully we were just pretending to eat her foam and clay cake, but as we “nibbled,” she asked a question that made me think.
She said, “Have you ever had a cake that looked beautiful but tasted bad?”
The way she asked, I could tell she didn’t believe such a thing was possible. But immediately I thought of a baby shower I attended several years ago. The women throwing the shower had spared no expense — and that included the cake. Covered in fondant and decorated beautifully with modern stripes and polka dots, it looked too good to eat.
And it was.
Fondant tastes terrible, you guys! And for someone whose favorite part of a party is almost always the food, that cake was a major disappointment. It was beautiful, yes, but it was certainly not delicious.
As I told my daughter about that cake and went on to remember other cake disasters and disappointments (strangely enough, there have been a few!), I could feel God whispering and nudging. He was asking, just like a parent who already knows exactly what you’ve done and how you should answer, “Are you a beautiful cake that tastes bad?”
Am I? Am I a beautiful cake that tastes like cardboard? A good mom who listens to Christian music but yells at my kids all the way to church? A Bible study leader who refuses to forgive that person who hurt me? An “inspirational” writer who lets gossip or criticism or four-letter words slip out more often than you’d ever guess?
Yeah, sometimes I am.
I am. I’m a Pharisee on the corner, projecting my (self) righteous prayers for all to hear, a cup and dish that’s been washed clean on the outside but filthy on the inside. Every time I lean on my resume or my list of tasks and titles, but don’t seek and serve and love God, I’m that cake.
When I place more importance on answering questions for the Bible study I lead than actually reading my Bible and letting God use the Word to speak to me, I’m that cake.
When I spend more time scheduling students to serve the next several Sundays than I do seeking God’s will for my next several weeks, I’m that cake.
When I get mad at my kids and husband for keeping me from writing an article about how much I love my kids and husband, I’m that cake.
When I count “write a post about a back-to-school prayer” as my prayer time for the day . . . or week . . . I’m that cake.
I don’t want to be that cake, friends! I don’t want to be so consumed with how I look, with how other people see me, with how I measure up to other moms or other bloggers or other humans that I completely neglect how I really am. I don’t want my outsides to be shiny enough to distract you from my crumpled, dusty, cracked insides. I don’t want to fool you or them or Him.
Recognizing my hypocrisy on that rainy Sunday morning was a wake-up call for me. And the question from my little baker was a reminder not to sweep that conviction under the couch with all the Cheerios and cat hair.
Starting today I’m going back to a closet for my prayers and washing the inside of my cup and dish. I’m going to seek God before people’s approval, ask for wisdom before more time, more money, more friends, more things done and tasks accomplished.
I’m not going to be that cake.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people
in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward
from your Father who is in heaven.”
Have you ever found yourself looking like a beautiful cake but tasting like something else?