I’ll never forget the time my brother and I pulled out a kids’ cookbook in the kitchen of our Oregon farm and made popovers for our mom.
“They popped!” Mom exclaimed, pulling apart a golden-crusted puff to reveal the hollow center inside. “Mine never do.”
You have to stir the batter just right, she explained. Over stir, and the eggy mixture will bake into a doughy glob. But somehow, in our inexperience and naiveté, my brother and I had stirred the batter just right.
More than three decades later, I’m still proud of my popovers. So proud, that I began to fear my vanity would jinx my success. As the writer of Proverbs warned, pride often comes before a fall, and fall was exactly what I didn’t want to happen to my popovers.
Twice in the past couple of months I invited friends over to taste my towering treats, and twice they rose to nearly unimaginable heights, bursting upward in steaming hollows of delight. Each time my friends remarked that they’d never seen such perfect popovers, and I flushed with genuine pleasure before passing the butter and jam.
“Soup and popovers,” I boasted. “Those are two things I’ve mastered.”
I’m no hack in the kitchen. Most of what I cook is from scratch – usually without complaints from my family. But soup and popovers seemed to be my true talent. And then – inexplicably – my next batch of popovers barely puffed out of the pan. Sure it was a fluke, I tried again. Those popped, but barely. Worse, a couple of days later I threw together a stew, which tasted so awful I drained the broth down the kitchen sink and fried up the remains as hash!
What had happened? All I knew was that my boasting days were over.
“But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone,” God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:2, NLT), “that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things.”
It’s good to feel satisfaction in doing something well – especially when you can share the results with friends. But the only thing truly worth boasting about is knowing God. So while I am most definitely going to keep working on my soup and popovers, this verse reminds me of where to focus my true ambitions.
This week is the beginning of Lent, a six week period in which Catholics and Christians prepare to celebrate Easter through prayer, repentance, self-denial and service to others. You don’t have to attend a church—although I find it helps—or be a practicing believer to do this. It’s a valuable time of searching and reflection for anyone interested in knowing more about God. After all, my brother and I didn’t know anything about cooking when we whipped up our first batch of popovers, and look how well that turned out..
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. The Backward Easter Egg Hunt, the second book in her Lantern Hill Farm children’s picture-book series, is available now.