Pixabay.com, Dominik Schraudolf, CCO Public Domain Pixabay.com, Dominik Schraudolf, CCO Public Domain

I wish I had video footage of the scene as it unfolded. I can just imagine the look on my face and the various contortions it went through as I processed what was before me. We were visiting with my in-laws and I was helping my mother-in-law get dinner ready. She had pulled out a block of mozzarella cheese to use for the pizza she was putting together and I could immediately see the mold through the package. The growth was rather abundant. It would have made for a perfect lesson on the various stages of decaying matter and the pervasive way mold takes over what was once edible. I fully expected her to head straight to the trash and dispose of the atrocity, yet she saw something in this hairy, green/black mess that I would have never even thought of looking for.  

Unfettered by what lay before her, she grabbed a knife and sloughed off what was easily a half of an inch of cheese from each side while I stood beside her paralyzed with the realization that she was in fact hoping to use this on the pizza I was supposed to feed my children. After a few moments, she turned to me with what remained of the cheese post-surgery and held it before me with a look of pride, much like that of a child showing off a prized art project. And there we stood; waste-nothing meets OCD. I smiled meekly and she immediately knew it was time to think of something else to put on the pizza. We both laughed a little and fell into that rare and beautiful place of understanding and acceptance.  

With the start of the new year, people across the globe are formulating personal resolutions that they hope will create within them a renewed sense of being, a better self. I’m curious how those resolutions might change for the better if we were to look outside of ourselves and ask God how those around us could help us become the person we were created to be. Each one of us is a unique and intricate creation of all the people that we have shared our lives with; those that have crossed our paths briefly and those that have walked with us for the long haul.  

At the risk of being too “cheesy,” I’ll ask that you bear with me in seeing this comparison through. Fact is, we can all be compared to that block of mozzarella. Each one of us starts out a perfect, unmarred creation and, as we grow, we are heavily influenced by our relationships and contact with the people in our lives. Some relationships bring out the true flavor of who we are and do much to shape our well-being and success in life. Others weigh heavily on our souls, misdirect our steps and before we know it, the mold begins to grow. So often we are left to question how we can create anything positive out of the hand we have been dealt. We have a choice; throw it all away or hand it over to God who is perfectly and wholly capable of sloughing off the mold and using all of our experiences, be they good or bad, for positive personal growth.    

From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, our lives have recently been filled with family and friends, those closest to us that have had a part, be it small or large, in defining who we are as individuals. We’ve enjoyed many visits, some too short and some too long. Conversations have been abundant, some with healing and others with resolute defiance that things will ever change. Many gatherings have been joyous with the joining of family and friends that don’t often enjoy the blessing of time together and other gatherings felt the deep sadness of loved ones lost. 

There’s a lot of “de-briefing” that takes place after the holidays. We are quick to comment on how Aunt Bertha's weight continues to fluctuate like a yo-yo, how cousin Jimmy has grown into such a nice young man after some turbulent teenage years, how much Uncle Ed has aged since the last time we visited. Too often we get so caught up in our opinions, we fail to absorb the richness of the diversity around us within the personalities of our family and all those God places in our lives. There is much God wants to teach us and, if we let Him, He will use those around us to gently whittle away misunderstanding or harsh judgments, refine our patience and increase our acceptance. On the flip side, it’s so important to remember that we are gifts that God can use to do the same for others.  

In the end, I have to give my mother-in-law credit where credit is due. She dug deep and sure enough, she found the purity left within that marred block of cheese. I know it wasn’t easy for her not to use it on the pizza, but she respected where I was at and loved me anyway. And, in case you ever need to know, Parmesan cheese is an excellent substitute for mozzarella on your pizza.

Copyright 2016 Nicole Johnson