It all started a little over a year ago I guess. I was at my family’s lake house on Smith Lake in northern Alabama. All my family was there and we were getting ready to grill out for dinner. Now, I think this may have been one of the first times we had grilled out at the lake because we were looking through the instruction manual for our grill. Before you start making fun of me for reading the instruction manual, this grill is one of those “indirect heat” contraptions and we had not used one before… it was also hard to light. So there we were reading through the instruction manual and we come across a very helpful phrase,
If you’re lookin you ain’t cookin.
Catchy right? Little did I know at the time that this was considered the golden rule of grilling. Anyways, I thought it was a pretty good saying and took the advice to heart. Of course, I had no idea how that phrase would come to describe how I now understand my decisions in light of God’s will.
Fast-forward to earlier this summer. Cassie and I were staying at her parent’s house a little ways outside Nashville while we waited to move to Philadelphia. Our lease on our rental house was up in May so we needed somewhere to stay until we moved in late July. Cassie’s parents have a very nice grill – The Big Green Egg. This thing is for real too. All ceramic, hardwood coals, smoking chips, meat thermometer, the whole kit and kaboodle. Up until our move to their house, I had never actually used the grill myself. I was a bit intimated to be honest. I got a little practice on it grilling some pork chops, sausage, and burgers… but then my day of glory came. It was a Saturday and we were having baby back ribs. Three. racks. of. baby. back. ribs. And it was my turn to grill.
Now, the Big Green Egg is all about temperature control. For the ribs, the grill needed to be at 325 degrees for about 3 and half hours. The egg has a little chimney top that adjusts to control the temperature. So there I am, three racks of beautifully dry-rubbed ribs on the grill and I had to get this temperature right. First, I let the grill heat up to a little over 400 and then I put on the chimney top and started adjusting. I watched with anticipation as the needle on the thermometer began to slow its acceleration, then stop, and then begin to fall. At first it crept backwards, then gained speed and dropped below 400. I began to worry that I had closed off the chimney too much as the needle approached 375 with steady downward momentum. I quickly bumped the chimney open a little to slow its pace… but it kept falling. Approaching the 325 mark, I gave the chimney another bump to open a little further and the needle stopped! It was awesome. Now, I could set my timer and let the Big Green Egg do its thing. I walked away feeling proud of my ninja like temperature control skills.
I came back to check on the grill about 20 minutes later only to find that the temperature had soared back up to 400 degrees!?!?! Burning these ribs would be a disaster so I had to act fast. I closed off the chimney to get the temperature down and watched with relief as the needle fell. But then it fell too much again, so I had to open it back up. And then I had to close it more… and then open it… close it… open… you get the picture. I’m standing in front of this grill desperately trying to fine tune this temperature as quickly as possible when I remembered that old adage…
If you’re lookin you ain’t cookin
Now, technically I wasn’t “lookin” because the grill was closed the entire time, but it dawned on me that my adjustments to the chimney needed time to take their full effect. Just a smidge of a change could mean 10 or 20 degrees difference, but it would take a few minutes to get there. Here I was killing myself going back and forth trying to get the needle to stop at the right spot, when all I really needed to do was make an adjustment and walk away. Stop lookin, let go, sit down, and let it do it’s work.
After this epiphany, I was able to successfully return the grill to 325. The ribs turned out great. They were delicious. You may be wondering, “What does any of this have to do with you going to seminary?” Well, here’s my thoughts.
To me, “lookin” is all about control. It’s about managing the situation. You have to look because you need to see what the meat looks like, how the coals are looking, etc… You need to know, you have to know, you just can’t stand not knowing and the grill is so easy to open, and so that’s what you do. You take a quick look and make sure everything is ok. You make sure you’re still in control. You can rest… for about 3 minutes until you have to look again. All the while, you lose the heat that is vital to cooking anything.
Control is hard to give up. It means you have to trust something else to be in control. With grilling, its the laws of physics (or chemistry?), and with life its Jesus Christ, who is Lord alone. I relate God’s call for me to attend seminary to a fire being lit in the grill. The Lord was cooking something up in my heart and I knew it. I could feel it. He was cookin and I just couldn’t keep from lookin. I couldn’t keep myself from wanting to know what He was doing in me. I had to know. I had to be in control. So for awhile I looked… and looked … and looked. I didn’t really see much of anything, but I kept looking anyways. I could still feel the fire burning, but there just wasn’t much confirmation from what I was seeing. As I refused to let it cook, the fire began to fade. Thankfully, the Lord provided the right encouragement for me at the right times to keep the fire alive. Ultimately, this led to me applying to seminaries, being accepted, and moving to Philadelphia to begin seminary at Palmer in the fall.
I’ve been here about a week and a half and I think its time to let the grill do its thing. It is time for me to stop looking and let the Lord do some holy barbecuing all up in my soul (maybe my best line ever). I’m excited as I feel the heat begin to pick back up. I’m not sure what’s on the menu, but I know it will be tasty.
Sometimes we just have to trust what the Lord is doing among us. He is with us always and He is always at work. Instead of doubting His purpose and His love for us, how bout we stop lookin so He can do some cookin.