June 2016

“I would like to make jam.” Ben was eating jam on toast and as his looked up to speak, his face had a cheerful smear and a big grin. Ben was to lose Mummy, Grandma and Nanny for the weekend as they attended the Ladies’ Capernwray weekend – and Daddy had forgotten to ‘close’ the weekend, so was called to referee a football match in Stockport.  Nathanael was coming to stay for the weekend for the extra pair of hands.  On Saturday, he was taking James to an enthusiastic Mum-and-two-daughters baby admiring, sorry, sitting team, leaving Ben and me to spend Saturday together.  What were we going to do together?  We discussed the options over Ben’s pre-tea – when you’re 5 and call in at Grandma’s after school, you often need a little pick-me-up before proper tea which was jam and toast by preference today – and jam making was mentioned.  Ben registered his approval.  I countered, “Last time ‘we’ made jam, you spent the whole time in front of the TV; are you actually going to make it?”  “I would like to make jam.” Ben positively affirmed, and so the die was cast.

On the Saturday, Ben remained focussed and interested.  I’ve made jam with the grandchildren several times, and they know strict rules apply to prevent burning, summed up by “You must do what Granddad says or we just stop – everything is very hot, and I don’t want you getting burnt.”  Auntie Natalie had lent a jam bucket, so we weighed out the ingredients and doubled the normal quantity of raspberries (picked by Grandma) and jam sugar.  We watched the raspberries defrost as they warmed, stirred in the sugar, Ben later added the knob of butter and watched it dissolve so we could gently bring it to a rolling boil.  We had put our saucers in the freezer, and now tested the setting properties with a teaspoon dropped on the saucer – with the inevitable licking clean assistance by Ben – and before too long, we were ready to fill the jars, which were warming in the oven.

At every stage, Ben’s enthusiasm to play a full part led him to come perilously close to breaking Granddad’s rule, trying to run ahead.  Pouring the jam through the jam funnel into the hot jars is a particularly testing time.  I was keen to let Ben play a full part, but as he stood there on the stool, encased in my full sized apron, he dipped the ladle a little too fast and poured the jam over the work surface as well as into the jar.  Granddad had to stop several times to wipe clean jars and retrieve hot jam lava flows.  When the jars were filled and capped (creating a vacuum as they cool) Ben finished licking duties and retired to the TV, leaving Granddad to clear the sticky mess he had created by not following Granddad’s rules closely – but no burns.

We typed in Ben’s name, printed the labels, and Ben stuck them on the sixteen jars we had made, keen now to tell Mummy.  We stacked them up carefully, Ben took a picture and sent it via my phone to Mummy with the words “All my own work.  Love you Mummy.”  If you ask Ben, he made the jam: Granddad may get a walk-on part.  The jam is labelled ‘Ben’s raspberry jam’.  Ben worked out who was going to get the jars, mediated eventually by Granddad’s assertion of ultimate ownership, and carried off several jars – we’re down to six now.  Ben claimed full ownership until we thought about who grew and picked the raspberries, who provided the sugar, the heating, the guidance… for a brief moment, he realised the gift to him in his jam-making.

Rules to keep us safe from unperceived dangers, the consequences of rushing ahead and breaking the rules, the underlying love and protection in giving the rules, the joy of working together in partnership and seeing the finished work, even though it would have been easier and cleaner and quicker to do the task alone, leaving the mess to be cleared up, the quickly forgotten help in asserting ‘I did this’, and the realisation of ultimate ownership.  Are we talking about Ben and Granddad – or God and us?

“God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (The Bible, Genesis 1.31).  The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, saying “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2.15-17)

Praying that you may find in Christ Jesus the right partnership with our loving Heavenly Father.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Simon Cox.

You can find the full text of the June Herald here