It was my dream for as long as I can remember, back when a girl imagined true love and a house full of children:
I’d be the mom who baked homemade chocolate chip cookies for her kids after school.
Thus, when I married, it didn’t take long to set up a mixer and buy butter, sugar, and vanilla. I filled my cabinets with all the makings for magic. Even before children entered the story, I baked for my husband with all the love I had in my heart.
When divorce and remarriage changed the ingredients, adding angst to our family mix, I rolled up my sleeves and doubled both my recipes and my love. Day after day I baked, serving up cookie offerings to both children and adults, all of us who mourned our losses.
Seeing my children with cookies in hand, the neighbor kids started to come over (and their parents). Then, the piano students I gave lessons to (and their parents). When my husband started his own business, I baked cookies by the hundreds for new vendors and clients. Not to mention teachers, coaches, and friends and loved ones enduring a crisis.
Soon, I was known as the woman who always had cookies on the kitchen counter. Visitors stopped knocking at the front door, knowing they could walk in whenever they needed a fix. Once a neighbor mentioned buying me a Krispy-Kreme-like sign, one I could light up whenever I pulled a new batch from the oven.
“That way everyone knows when to come over,” she said with a grin.
She might’ve been joking, but I secretly dreamed of such a gift. What a thought! Baking was my way of delivering love on a plate, a small offering of joy and presence for those who needed it most.
I must’ve made thousands of cookies over the span of close to twenty years, far more than most will make in a lifetime. I didn’t mind. Not at all. It was one of my greatest delights during those twenty years of life.
But then a crazy thing called “cancer” took my tongue and my taste.
Afterwards, doctors tried to be optimistic, encouraging me with comments like “At least you’re alive!” They asked me questions like “Can you taste anything?” Every time I answered the same: “A little, but nothing sweet.”
They shrugged and moved on. In their minds, losing taste was nothing compared to gaining life. But they didn’t know about the neighborhood kids, the warm chocolate chip cookies, and the sign I wanted to hang in my window.
They didn’t know.
It’s been difficult for me, learning to live without one of my five senses. You don’t realize how much you savor a thing until you have less of it — or none at all.
Recently a dear friend lost a close family member. I ached for her loss but didn’t know what to do. So I got to work in the kitchen, stirring up several dishes to fill up her grief-emptied family. In addition, I baked up my famous, from-scratch chocolate chip cookies.
Then, while the cookies baked, I stopped.
Closed my eyes.
In a moment, memories of my children, bursting through the front door after school and running for the kitchen counter, warmed me.
I opened my eyes and smiled. Then I got back to work, feeling only the slightest twinge of melancholy at what I knew I was missing. I expected grief and self-pity, maybe a twinge of bitterness at my unfair losses.
Instead, I experienced something more exquisite than the taste of a warm chocolate chip cookie straight from the oven:
Love, an overwhelming wave of sweet, tender love.
My eyes brimmed, my heart pounded, and warmth traveled from my feet up through my chest.
Why? Because healing comes when we choose to love from the place of loss.
I have two questions for you, questions that will likely make you uncomfortable but hold the power of great hope:
- What have you lost that you cannot recover? I’m not so naive as to think my silly little loss comes close to comparing with the losses so many of you mourn. I know I can’t possibly fathom the loss of my legs or burying my child. The mere thought makes it hard to breathe. But whatever it is, name it. Acknowledge it. Put it right there on the kitchen counter where you can see it for what it is.
- Now, what might you gain by giving it away? In other words, how could that loss become an uncommon companionship to someone else’s pain? There are scores of people who need to know they’re not alone. You have something to offer that so few others have, something hidden beneath the grave of your grief that promises resurrection and new life.
For others, yes. But also for you. Jesus said it this way:
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for me will save it.
Luke 9:24 (NIV)
This is the unexpected gain of giving yourself away. It doesn’t mean the losses won’t hurt, and you might feel a wave of anger or sadness now and then. But there is a sweetness found in loving from our lack that can’t be found anywhere else. And, even better, healing happens when the grave of our losses becomes our life-giving offerings of love.
Healing comes when we choose to love from the place of loss. -@MicheleCushatt: Click To Tweet