Last night I decided to give fudge making a try. The ingredients and recipe had been sitting in a foil lined 9×9 pan since the Christmas baking season, but it took a week of unplanned snow vacation to drive me to attempt it. I read the instructions. I followed them exactly. My sister Brittany stirred constantly so as not to scorch. I added the ingredients in order and in the way in which we were instructed. When everything was appropriately boiled, melted and mixed, I immediately (per instructions) poured the mixture into the pan and anxiously waited the four hours for the fudge to set.
Actually, that was the only place in the instructions where we went astray. Instead of four hours, we waited overnight, because I went to bed.
But when I got up this morning, I went straight to the kitchen to cut and try a piece of the fudgy, marshmellowy goodness.
But there was no cutting. It is physically impossible to cut liquid. My fudge was the consistency of icing. Really good, chocolate walnut icing, but icing nonetheless. Nowhere near fudge. Needless to say, my inner baker was crushed.
When things don’t turn out as expected, in both baking and in life, it’s good to pause a moment and try to figure out why. I looked back over the instructions and confirmed we had followed them exactly. I double checked the ingredients, and they were all correct. I checked times, temperatures, everything. And I still had icing. Then, I tweeted about my mishap and received back a wealth of helpful information. My recipe said to boil the sugary goodness for four minutes. Those who are fudge professionals quickly replied that this was not nearly enough time for fudge to set correctly. I had boiled for four minutes. I needed to boil at least 20. I’d kept my fudge to the heat, but not long enough to make it into what it was supposed to be.
I had followed the directions; the problem was that I was following incorrect directions. Same thing happens in life.
Ever happened to you? Ever taken the advice of a trusted friend or loved one, only to have the results end up much different than you had intended? Something similar happened to the Israelites in Zechariah 13:7-9.
7 “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,” declares the LORD of hosts.“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones. 8 In the whole land, declares the LORD, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive.
God’s people were supposedly following God’s man. The problem is that they quit following God for themselves and just followed a man. When his instructions went awry, so did they. Just like me, they had all of the right ingredients and they had followed the directions, but the end result was anything but what they expected. God did to his people what I needed to do to my fudge; He turned up the heat.
9 And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.'”
I took my fudgy icing goo and got creative. The ingredients were all correct, it still tasted good, it was just going to be a different form from what I had originally intended. Instead of a block of fudge, I ended up with chocolate crescent rolls, a fudge pie, and some chewy, as-yet-unnamed, chocolate stuff. All delicious. Nothing wrong with fudge, but this is so much better.
Again, God does the same thing with us. When we take him our mistakes, he takes the ingredients of our lives, the things that didn’t turn out like we planned, and he makes something so much better than we ever intended.
But in order to do that, sometimes God has to turn up the heat in our lives. If you are in a season of refining, hang onto the promise that whatever God is burning out of your life is refining you into something so much better than you had planned. Why be fudge when you can be a chocolate pastry?