Rev. Katy Sundararajan is the Th.M. Program Administrator and International Student Advisor at Western Theological Seminary, and partners with her husband as an RCA missionary with Audio Scripture Ministries. She continues filling in for Tom here at The Twelve.
The first time I made a cheesecake from scratch, I was home on break from college and helping my mom in the kitchen. It was the first time that I had been granted this special task, and I had been told by my mother that the food processor worked best for mixing it smoothly. I had no trouble at all until it was time to mix the eggs into the whirring, satiny batter. It was the last egg that fell in whole. Yes, shell and all. Thankfully I have a quick reaction time and I shut the machine off immediately, deer-in-the-headlights gaze directed at my mom. She gracefully pried the lid off the food processor, reached into the batter, and with a few swishes of her hand pulled out a bunch of fragmented pieces of eggshell. She said she thought that must be all of it. I baked the cheesecake, and we didn’t tell my dad. It has gone down in the annals of Wing family history the way my dad took the first bite and halfway through declaring it delicious, stopped short and exclaimed “What is in this cheesecake?” Well, I learned the embarrassing way that while it’s likely nobody has a faster reaction time than mine, it’s also likely nobody on earth could stop a running food processor from grinding an eggshell into a billion smithereens before shutting it off. You can try it next time if you want to test my theory. Have you ever eaten a cheesecake laced with eggshells? For your sake, I hope the answer is no because, truly, no one should have to taste such extreme grittiness within such decadence. It is a bad combination.
My husband was speaking in an area church awhile back, sometime during the bleak mid-winter, and afterward, leaving through the side door, I saw that there was a huge plastic tote filled with rock salt for the sidewalks. A large sign was stuck on top noting, “A little salt goes a long way.”
In the sermon on the Mount Jesus says to us quite simply and assuredly, “You are the salt of the earth.” And, while I do understand how the saltiness of this admonition points us most clearly toward preservation of Christ-likeness in our lives, and thus, in the world, I think there can be more to it. I keep going back to those eggshells in the cheesecake, the ideal example of a little bit going a long, long way. (Oh, the grit between my teeth! It was like eating a sandwich that your toddler dropped on the beach when you weren’t looking.) My mom had fished out way more than two thirds of that eggshell, and yet the remainder made it into every single bite of that blessed cheesecake.
Salt is also like this, except that it is not awful. Salt is the cook’s treasure, their secret weapon. A whole batch of perfect chocolate chip cookies only contains a mere teaspoon of salt, for example. Recipes often say the salt is optional, but have you tried a chocolate chip cookie without salt? You no doubt thought something was missing. Just a wee bit of salt makes all the difference when it comes to flavor and actual enjoyment of food. And truly, a little bit goes a long way. Use too much salt, and it dominates with a harsh and overpowering flavor.
I think about all of this in relation to my Christian faith. Jesus absolutely compared me to salt. If I am trying to be a faithful follower of Jesus, does it still work to say that a little bit goes a long way? I think it does because I am not saying that ‘no salt’ is the answer, but rather a little bit always here, there and everywhere present and permeating my life is the way to go. The salt in my life must be obvious and integral, like I am missing something if it isn’t there.
So, I suppose a little salt can be the grace I show to a woman otherwise on the warpath at the grocery store. A little salt might be sitting at a table and having a conversation about hard things with someone that I feel uncertain about or disagree with. A little salt might be genuinely taking time to pray for a hurting world that only God can fix, but in which real people struggle to live. A small sprinkle of salt can be recognized in forgiving someone who hurt me. And, a ration of salt can be acknowledged in the steady lessons I teach my children as they grow up about how to treat others with kindness and how to speak with words of love and generosity. These things seem paltry as I write them down. I wonder if they will sound important enough to you, and whether they represent proper salt. But this is the salt that I bring to my community, my people, my life. It is my salt, a little bit here, there, and everywhere, present with me and integral to how I live my life. Truly, it provides flavor and enjoyment in my life, but it also nurtures and sustains- it preserves- the world around me with Christlike salt.