I’ve said it again, I’m saying it now, and I am sure that I will say it again….
One thing that I love about Ugandan culture is the tradition of giving gifts in the form of food.
I mean, I love it.
Often when someone visits you (when they’ve traveled some distance, not just the stop-in-and-see-you kind of visit), they will come with these edible gifts.
If someone is coming from the village to town, they are likely to bring with them something that has recently been harvested: potatoes, avocados, bananas, beans, sugar cane, cabbage, etc.
If someone is coming from town to the village, they are likely to bring something more along the lines of processed items: bread, sugar, rice, soap (ok, that isn’t food, but it is a common gift), etc.
Also, if you are from town and you visit someone in the village, there is a good chance they are sending you home with food items.
I love it.
And I have recently had several visitors from the village who have been keeping my kitchen well-stocked. I mean, we have been eating potatoes practically non-stop for weeks. And there is no sign of stopping soon! Also, had multiple avocados with every meal for a week straight. And beans. We have had some beautiful beans.
That’s right: beautiful beans.
I don’t know what it is exactly, but every time we thresh beans (you know, remove them from their pods) I get captivated by their beauty.
One of the bags of beans we were given this month was exceptionally beautiful. There were so many different colors and sizes. I saw beans like I’d never seen before. Someone once told me that each type has a different name in the local languages. You know, like eskimos have a million words for snow…give or take.
I just kept thinking about how beautiful and different they all look when they are fresh. But when you cook them (for hours), their uniqueness wears away. Sometimes they all end up looking practically the same.
The more I thought about it, the deeper my mind went. I was reflecting on how we, as people, are all so beautifully unique. Of course we are different in appearance…but we are so different in other ways as well: personality, talents, passions, gifts, skills, desires, etc. Maybe if I stopped to think about it for awhile, I would be captivated by us just as much as I am captivated by beans.
And the reality is, when we go through fire (difficult times) like heartache, sickness, loss, etc., our uniqueness wears away. We all end up looking practically the same…human.
You know, I do not love going through fire. It is painful!
I’m sure if beans could talk, they don’t like it either.
But…who wants to eat a raw bean? I regularly see children around here trying to pick fruit before they are fully ripe, and enjoying them in their sour state. But I never see a child munching on raw beans.
Yet, after they are cooked, slowly and with attention…adding water, vegetables, spices…then they taste amazing.
I’ll admit I have not been the most enthusiastic bean-cooker in Uganda since I’ve been here. However, I’ve recently decided that I should catch-up on this basic skill. I got advice from a couple different ladies on their approach to the cuisine. The other day, after cooking some of those gifted beans, I had an amazing compliment from a small child: they tasted like the beans that Aunt Joseline cooks. Now, Aunt Joseline is one of my friends whose cooking I always enjoy. Things I don’t always like when other people make them, I like when I’m at her house. So, my novice beans being compared to hers was a pretty big moment in my books.
As I was eating these tasty beans, I was drawn back to my bean/human parallel. Though going through fire is undesirable at the time, it often makes us better. It made me think of the words in Romans 5:3&4.
…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Our sufferings make us sweeter, so to speak. (Here in Uganda, when something tastes good, we say it is sweet regardless of its sugary flavor.)
So, though we are all created uniquely, we all have some basic things in common–we will endure difficult things in this earth, but they can make us better if we allow them to. That is, if we have that careful attention–we don’t need water, vegetables, or spices to be added during the process. But we do need God’s Word, prayer, and encouragement from fellow beans, I mean people, during the process. That will make us oh-so-sweet, and more equipped to be a part of that encouragement-ingredient when someone else is boiling near us.