Note: This article originally appeared in Instigate Magazine. It has been edited and adapted for this blog.
As a new year begins to unfold, we can reflect on the year we left behind. Time seems to vanish, and we are left with little but a few mementos of the things gained or lost as the days melt away.
While working in a busy kitchen, it’s not uncommon to pick up a few burn scars on your forearms or hands. Some of the scars heal quickly, and some last the rest of your life – a collection of reminders from years past. I have a small scar on the top of my right hand that commemorates the first time I ever made creme caramel and a scar on my forehead that will forever remind me of catering a certain wedding.
In this ministry, it’s not only the grill, ovens, or saute pans that can leave a lasting impression. Over the years, we have trained, mentored, and guided dozens of men through our culinary arts program. Each one has made an impression on me.
There was one man in particular that I thought would cause me some permanent, possibly physical scarring. His name was Danny*. He was one of the toughest students I have ever had. He was intelligent and loved to argue. He would argue about anything and everything, and wouldn’t even concede that he was arguing. I would end my days exhausted, being put through mental obstacle courses on subjects ranging from theology to table settings.
I was committed to this guy; I cared for him and he wanted me to prove it. The challenge made me a better leader, a better communicator, and a better apologist. I missed him after he graduated from the New Life Program and moved on (though the kitchen was a far more peaceful place).
I missed proving that I cared about him.
I always think about the men after they graduate or leave the program. I wasn’t sure if Danny’s story would be a good one. But a year can be full of surprises. Some of my best and most well-trained guys have seemed to fall the hardest, while Danny has continued to grow by maintaining a job, relationships, and his sobriety, though he was one of my toughest students.
A few weeks ago, I heard a knock at the back door of the kitchen. To my surprise, it was Danny standing there. He came to show me his new car and to make me lunch. He came to prove that he cared about me.
I look forward to seeing what God has in store for this new year. Scars, surprises, and all.
*name has been changed to protect privacy