Has anything like this ever happened to you?
We invited our friends over for New Year’s Eve dinner, and I decided to bake the dessert a day ahead of time. I have this fancy-looking Bundt pan that I use for cake. But I don’t make cakes very often, so I always forget this particular Bundt pan always needs to be both greased and floured.
You know what I mean when I say “greased and floured,” right? To keep the cake from sticking to the pan while it bakes, the person prepping the pan has to slather the inside of the pan with butter and then dust that same pan with flour. This time-honored tradition promises to reward the baker with a finished confection that slides right out of the inverted pan at the end of the baking session.
I don’t know why, but I always forget the flour.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, this particular dinner party proved no exception. In fact (and this is just embarrassing), I actually said to myself, “You should probably put some flour in that cake pan,” and then I didn’t do it. I know, right? I am without excuse.
I was astounded to discover the cake, at the end of its baking session, was firmly cemented to the pan.
Back in the ’80s, a television commercial advertised the amazing adhesive powers of a product called Krazy Glue®. The commercial showed a man suspended from a construction beam by a hardhat that had been affixed to the beam with Krazy Glue®. That’s how firmly my cake was stuck to the pan. I tried prying it loose, shaking it loose, and beating it loose. It did not budge. So, I inverted the cake over a plate and left it on the kitchen counter overnight to let gravity do its work.
You guessed it.
In the morning, the cake had officially become one with the pan. It had not released its grip. And so, I thought to myself, “You’ll have to make another cake.”
I headed to the car to buy new ingredients for this new cake. I drove to the grocery store where I wandered the aisles for a bit, trying to convince myself to restock my pantry and not forget to flour the pan this time. But, something in me wouldn’t let me give myself a cake mulligan. Deep on the inside of me, I think I knew I was going to be serving that cemented cake to my friends and family on New Year’s Eve.
And that’s exactly what I did.
When we’d cleared the table of the dinner plates, and refilled the glasses with each person’s beverage of choice, I went to the kitchen to retrieve the cake in its partnered pan.
I delivered the cake and pan to the center of the dining room table and served the cake straight from the pan. Lightening did not strike me. The guests did not run out of the house in horror. The hospitality gurus did not revoke my entertaining rights. In fact, the cake was a hit! My guests asked for the recipe. People had seconds. One friend was even spied eating cake crumbs off the tablecloth.
The honest truth is I probably could have set that cake in the center of the table, handed everyone a fork and said, “Dig in!” and no one would have batted an eye.
Most of the time, when I find myself sweating the small stuff, it’s because I’ve set up some sort of ridiculous (and false) expectation for myself. I get all worked up about presenting the perfect cake to my friends and family and, all along, my friends and family are simply happy to spend time with each other and with me. As far as they’re concerned, cake is a bonus. “Cake?” they say. “You made cake?!” They don’t care if the cake is stuck to the pan. If the roles were reversed, I can assure you that I wouldn’t care if the cake was stuck to the pan.
Now, while this cake story is true, you’ll probably agree with me that the cake serves as a metaphor for so many other things in life, doesn’t it? That cake represents:
- the way we imagine things will be as compared to the way events actually unfold
- the (many) times we open our mouth and insert our foot (or feet)
- the awkward thing we did in front of that audience
- the time someone fell asleep (and snored!) in the front row during our talk
- the book that didn’t sell
- the job we didn’t get
- the moment we realize the back of our dress has been tucked into our leggings all morning
- and more!
You can insert your own experience here, but the common thread among all of these moments we wish we could change or take back is that they don’t define us. Not one single bit. And knowing that is the key to learning how not to sweat it in this life we’re living. If you and I are valued simply for the cake we bring to the table, then we’ll wear ourselves out, striving for a little bit of recognition from whomever we’ve deemed the recognition gods. But when we recognize our worth is really determined by the God who made us, our focus shifts from performing for those imaginary gods to simply being loved by God.
“You Made Cake!!!”
No one is perfect, and each of us will have our fair share of cakes cemented to the pan. In all of this, however, the most spectacular thing of all is understanding, even when you bake a cake and it fuses itself to the pan, it’s not just that your friends and family don’t think twice about it. The most spectacular thing is knowing the Creator of Everything looks at that cake stuck in the pan, then wraps you in an embrace and shouts with delight, “You made cake!!!”
THIS is how much you are loved by God, just because you are here. And knowing THAT is the first step to learning not to sweat it and instead, grab a fork, pull up to the table, and dig in!