“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me my own.” Philippians 3:12

About a year ago, I went on a mission to find the “best” chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I read a lot of different articles from bakers with various opinions on ingredients and techniques: butter vs. shortening, how long to cream the butter, the ratio of brown sugar to white sugar, and whether or not to use chocolate chips or to roughly chop chocolate into chunks yourself.  I happened upon one recipe and decided to try it.  It called for browning the butter and using dark brown sugar.  It also suggested using good quality chocolate, so I splurged and bought Lindt dark chocolate bars.  When the cookie came out of the oven, my whole family was captivated with the results!  It raised chocolate chip cookies to a whole new level: rich, buttery and decadent.  I put aside my research and devoured my conclusion with delight!

A week and half ago, just like the Grinch, I got “a wonderful, awful idea!”  I decided to try yet another recipe.  I thought this one would appeal more to my husband, since it was reviewed as an extra crispy chocolate chip cookie!  The recipe called for more butter than most recipes and a larger proportion of white sugar vs. brown sugar.  My baking experience made me apprehensive when the recipe called for adding water to the dough, but I forged ahead!  The recipe warned me that the dough would spread, but when I took them out of the oven I was astounded.  The cookies spread into a thin, lace-like substance, covering almost the entire pan in a thin layer.  The chocolate chips congealed in the center of the cookies and shrunk in size.  In addition, this is one recipe where the cookies tasted just as bad as they looked: greasy with lack-luster flavor.  I attempted to refrigerate the rest of the dough to see if it would improve the quality, but to no avail.  As a last resort, I threw the rest of the dough into a pan, hoping it would magically turn into edible bars.  Instead, the bars were gooey, sticking to your teeth with a weird gummy like after taste.  As far as appealing to my husband, he attempted to eat some, but most of them ended up in the trash!

This is what the cookies looked like after baking. Photo credit Margaret Collins

My epic cookie failure reminded me of the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  I already had an incredible recipe, why did I feel a need to improve on it?  The recipe I found a year ago met everyone’s expectations in what a chocolate cookie should be: crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, lots of flavor, and decadent chocolate.  Nevertheless, I had the brilliant idea of attempting another recipe hoping to find even greater success.  Instead, I ended up with a lot of wasted ingredients (and we all know how hard flour is to come by in a pandemic) and a blemish on my baking record.

It made me wonder about myself, how often do I forge ahead with an idea without really thinking about the costs and whether or not I really need to improve on something?  How often have I jumped on the bandwagon of some trendy new home improvement concept or family-enhancing idea, without really thinking about whether or not this really fits our home and family?  The answer to that question is more often than I want to admit.

I love new ideas, and often read books that challenge me to not only improve myself, but also my home and relationships within in my family.  I love conversing with friends, sharing ideas and brainstorming on ways to better myself.  In addition, our society seems to embrace the concept of self-improvement in all areas of life with the advent of home-improvement stores to project supply stores like Lowe’s and Hobby Lobby.  The concept of self-improvement is good, but I have to learn to balance this with the importance of consistency and tradition.  Not everything should change and not every idea is the best fit for me and my family.

For example, I have a dear friend who does family worship time during their dinner meal.  Regularly, they would sing together after their meal and read the Bible aloud.  Our family already did our devotions in the morning, but I had this crazy notion that we should try it in the evening as well.  Yet, this just didn’t fit our family; we often had dinner guests and couldn’t develop a consistent habit of incorporating another devotion time in our day.  I quickly realized that this wasn’t going to fit our family.  Another example was the time I got the idea to sew a felt advent calendar that would be a family heirloom to pass on to future generations.  My sewing abilities resulted in a vaguely Christmas tree-like blob with five unidentifiable ornaments.  This project ended up in the trash, just like the chocolate chip cookies, along with my wasted time and energy!

I think it’s important to take an honest look at your life and evaluate what areas need some improvements.  We should always be striving to be more Christ-like while strengthening our families.  Even in our homes, we should be striving to create an atmosphere that is comfortable and represents us as a family.  This might mean investing time and energy into improving in our lives!  Yet, some improvements might not be needed, or might not fit your family’s disposition.  This is where we need to stop and ask ourselves some tough questions.  Am I trying to be the perfect Christian, trying to create the perfect family, fashion the perfect home, or, in my case, produce the perfect chocolate chip cookie?  If this is the root of our need for improvement, we need to stop and change direction.

This is my favorite recipe, although we didn’t love the M&M’s in the cookie. Photo credit Margaret Collins

In a recent Facebook post, Lysa TerKeurst wrote, “The pursuit of perfection leads to pretending.  Pretending encourages others to chase perfection.  And it’s just all so very exhausting.  Let’s give each other the gift of transparency and grace as we pursue Jesus.  Because perfection doesn’t exist on this side of eternity.”  That last statement is powerful!!  Perfection is unattainable this side of eternity!  It doesn’t mean we can’t work to improve upon things, but our goal should always be to bring glory to God by reflecting His presence in our lives.  This includes improving ourselves, our families, and our homes.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  Bringing glory to God needs to be the heart of all self-improvements, not perfection.  Before forging ahead to make changes in my life, I need to make sure that it is going to bring glory to God!

In closing, I want to share one more thought.  The Bible talks about the marriage supper of the Lamb.  It is supposed to be this amazing feast where we spend time worshipping and eating with our Savior!  Can you imagine how beautiful the table is going to be decorated, centerpieces that pass any magazine cover!!  Being a foodie, I often wonder what amazing foods will be served at this table for us to share with fellow believers.  I can just imagine how amazing those chocolate chip cookies are going to be, far better than anything I can create on this side of eternity.  This will be the perfection we could never achieve in this life!

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