The past few days have been filled with an abundance of waiting: waiting for my MRI to get approved, waiting for the rehearsals I watch to end, waiting to find out when I’ll be able to get back into my full dance schedule. Because patience is not a trait I consider one of my strengths, this waiting has been accompanied with a smorgasbord of negative emotions. As I explained last week, I’m doing my best to combat the frustration, fear, and anxiety so that they don’t gain control over me–but, as many of you probably know, it’s never the easiest of tasks… This week, I found that I’d start each morning enthusiastically but that my positivity would wane as the day progressed. By the time I called my mom in the evening, my joyful energy would be lost, replaced by worry and exhaustion. My mission of finding joy was underway but off to a rocky start.
Thursday night brought a new element to the mission. I attend something called CRU every week–it’s a Christian college group that meets at the University of Pittsburgh as well as dozens of other campuses around the country. At the last meeting, I had a realization that inspired both my outlook on my dance situation and this week’s bake. At one point during his message, the speaker referenced a biblical story found in chapter 3 of the book of Daniel. In the story, a King named Nebuchadnezzar constructs a gold statue and orders all people to worship it. While most people fearfully obey the command, three men named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego openly refuse the king and continue worshiping their own God. As punishment, the king has them thrown into a huge furnace to essentially burn alive. To Nebuchadnezzar’s surprise, the three men calmly accept their consequence; and when they enter the fire, they walk around comfortably, unaffected by the flames. They emerge some time after, miraculously unharmed. The most important element to this story, though, was the king’s response. When Nebuchadnezzar sees them walking around very much alive, he immediately begins to worship their God, abandoning his previous order and calling all people to do the same. If the three men had never entered the furnace, multitudes of people would have continued to bow to a lifeless statue and a cruel tyrant their entire lives.
What I realized that night was that I am experiencing a Shadrach–Meshach–Abednego time (On a MUCH smaller, less dangerous scale, of course). The last 12 months of on and off injury, of recovery, re-injury, stress, fear, and depression are my furnace. Just like the three men, though, I am not in the middle of the flames alone–God has been with me the whole time and will continue to be. I will, one day, emerge from the injury fire, with “no harm to my body, no hair on my head singed, no clothes scorched, and no smell of fire on me.” As you remember, there are other characters in the story, though. If the people around me can see that there’s something keeping me going through all of the crap I’ve experienced, they might just start to wonder what that thing is. And if I can point their curiosity towards God, the only being capable of bringing life in the midst of deathly fire, then maybe my time in flames will be worth it. I’ve come to see that I must take a step away from analyzing how this scenario is affecting my life and am look for ways that it can change others’ hearts and lives.
This bread is the product of something that, for many individuals, produces a physical gag reflex. Overripe, mushy bananas are seen, foremost, as the repulsive remains of something that used to be. Only when taken out of their usual context and viewed as an ingredient in something bigger can they regain their value. Because someone decided to look beyond the seemingly inedible state of an overripe banana and explore its potential, thousands of people now consider banana bread a beloved treat. Had that person settled in the discontentment of the soft, brown fruit and thrown it away, so many after them would have missed out. It’s unbelievably hard to remove yourself from a difficult situation enough to see what good it can yield; I COMPLETELY understand that. But I challenge you this week to pause before you wince at the rotten state of your bananas. Take a chance and throw them in the oven–you wouldn’t believe how harmless flames can be.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” …They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (V)
- 1 1/2 cups mashed banana (about 3-4 bananas)
- 1 flax egg (1 TBSP ground flax mixed with 3 TBSP water left to thicken in fridge for at least 5 minutes)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup “buttermilk” (1/2 TBSP white vinegar mixed with enough almond milk to make 1/4 cup, left to sit for 5 minutes)
- 3/4 cup vegan sugar
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup vegan chocolate chips (plus more for topping)
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the long side of a loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving at least an inch above the top for easy removal of the bread. (Mine was 9 5/8 in. by 5 1/2 in., but anything close will work fine)
- Combine mashed banana, flax egg, salt, “buttermilk,” and sugar in one bowl. Mix thoroughly.
- In another larger bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cocoa powder (and cinnamon if using).
- Add wet ingredient mixture to dry ingredients, and mix just until completely combined. Be sure no clumps of flour are left on the bottom of the bowl.
- Mix in chocolate chips
- Pour batter into loaf pan over the parchment paper. Top with chocolate chips.
- Bake in preheated oven for about 65 minutes or until a toothpick/knife comes out almost completely clean.
- Let cool completely before slicing (if you’re me, you’ll disregard these instructions) and then wrap in plastic wrap to store.