I read a story that reminded me a little of the prodigal son Jesus talks about in Luke chapter 15. In this case it was about a poor family whose only son had to leave home to find work and was away for a very long time. After many years he returned home to his family and to welcome him back his mother prepared a simple but special feast and reserved the crunchy bits from the bottom of the rice pot – an honour for a beloved guest. Rough, uneven pieces of browned rice look unappetising but for some they can be a special treat. We can afford to discard these bits, and we usually do, but in some cultures nothing is wasted and seemingly imperfect things are valued.
Sometimes there’s a discussion in our household about how people like their eggs fried. We have some silicon egg rings – very slick and new – and can neatly fry 4 or 5 eggs at once in a large pan. Each egg is gently contained in its own red ring, giving a uniformly round and smooth shape with straight edges. This the kind of egg that plates up nicely in a café brunch alongside neat slices of avocado and smoked salmon, all on a chunk of sourdough bread with carefully placed dollops of salsa and dressing. All measured and exact and looking magnificent on a fine large plate – and delicious, of course.
On the other hand, eggs cooked in a big pan, without egg rings – free-ranging if you like – rarely look tidy. The eggs can run free, or even join up, and the edges turn into a crispy brown raggedness. They are far from being perfectly round. Plonked onto a square of Vegemite toast with a squashed tomato or two and a couple of mushrooms they nevertheless taste wonderful. And some of us relish those crunchy edges.
We do seek perfection and good looks even though that doesn’t necessarily make the final dish taste better. But those rough edges are interesting in taste and texture, whether it be eggs or rice or biscuits. The ragged edges in the frying pan are an indication that the egg has broken from its safety bubble and reached out. The centre remains contained as a rich source of nourishment – whether you like the yolk soft or firm or flipped over– but the white is able to change shape.
We like to be in our own bubble. It’s safe and predictable, with a strong border against the chaos and disorder outside. But that is not really helpful, particularly when it comes to mission and reaching out to other people. We have all realised in 2020 that isolation and distancing are not necessarily conducive to happy relationships, either with other people or with our own selves. One friend still complains that she gets no joy at all from making sourdough or de-cluttering or keeping a journal or examining herself. She wants to be out, at work, shopping, socialising and gathering regularly with friends and colleagues. In a way, COVID life in 2020 has not been unlike living inside an egg ring.
But to be effective Christians I think we need those edges. The edges are challenging and disturbing to our sense of order. They are where we can engage with the world and its pain and there is certainly plenty of pain in our world. As Westley tells Buttercup in The Princess Bride, ‘Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.’
So rather than give in to the temptation to stay inside our bubble of safety, with its tidy edges and predictability, we could let the edges go free, see where they lead. The centre stays but allows the edges the freedom to move, extend, reach out. Who knows whether fried eggs were ever a thing in Jesus’s times, but he certainly urged his followers to reach out, to stay centred on him but extend good news and healing to those on the edges.
Sheelagh Wegman is a freelance writer and editor. She is in the community of St David’s Cathedral in Hobart and lives in the foothills of kunanyi/Mt Wellington.
Sheelagh Wegman’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/sheelagh-wegman.html