Put a Lid On That Frying Pan

Put a lid on that frying pan.

Living in any area, like the Appalachian valley where I live, people have sayings that color their talk.  It would be easy to note the uniqueness of the phrases and miss the wisdom.  Wisdom is indeed what I’ve needed lately.

I’ve noticed that it is too easy to get caught up in my own opinions.  Well, they’re not really just opinions—I know stuff.  A man I worked with many years ago once drew a volcano on a post-it-note and gave it to me.  Evidently, my opinions were often shared when they weren’t even asked for—and with passion.

And that is the trap I’ve fallen into again lately.  So, when I expressed my desire to consider some fundamental changes in a form our students’ are required to use, my wise colleague, who has grown up and lived in this area for most of his life, responded,  “Put a lid on that frying pan.”

Clarifying, he said that there were others who also had concerns; implying I should be patient…literally to put a lid on my own ideas until the proper time and place.  Like the volcano post-it-note, there isn’t a sense of urgency when it comes to opinions; nor are they productive when liberally shared.

Again and again, I come back to the question of what is important, what matters here?  Again and again, what I need to be reminded of comes from unexpected places—through my friend Gene’s colloquialism and from a character, Lillian, in Frederick Buechner’s novel, The Final Beast.

Nicolet is a parish minister whom Buechner literary critic Dale Brown describes as   “another Buechner character trying to decipher the darkest mysteries and looking for something like happiness…”  Nicolet encounters a woman of prayer, a faith healer of sorts, fashioned after Buechner’s real life encounter with Agnes Sanford, author of The Healing Light.  The Final Beast’s version of Agnes Sanford, Lillian Flagg, asks,

“Have you ever received the gift of the Spirit, Mr. Nicolet?  … The Holy Spirit… I don’t mean the frills.  I mean the real business…The life.”

Nicolet shook his head.

“I didn’t think so,” she said.  “You get so you can tell.  Pray for it, Nicolet.  Nothing else really matters, you know.”

That’s what I need to hear, what really matters.  Put a lid on that frying pan full of hot grease.  Don’t let it spatter on others, or myself for that matter.  Don’t let it be the substance I rely on to give me The Life.

Listening to continuing and troubling public rhetoric of blaming someone else, of being against, of choosing sides, of being caught up in power and privilege hasn’t helped. However, that is part of the grease that splatters.  I do that, too, comparing myself with others—to see if I am measuring up or even to see if they measure up to me—instead of building sustaining relationships. How to act “self forgettingly out of the living center” of whose I am “without the paralyzing intervention of self-awareness” (Alphabet of Grace).

She [Lillian Flagg] said it was amazing what God could do on his own sometimes…

Maybe that is enough to know today. Put a lid on my own frying pan and step back and notice what God is already doing here and be part of that.

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