I love soups—all kinds of soups. They can be chicken, beef, clam, bean, rice, or vegetable. It doesn’t matter to me if they’re bisques, creams, gumbos, stews, or chowders. They’re all great! And isn’t there just something wonderful about the atmosphere of a home when there’s a big pot of soup simmering away on the stove?
I have many fond memories of being at my grandmother’s house when she would suddenly be struck by what she would call the “soup bug”. It would usually be a dreary, drizzly day—and she’d suddenly announce that we’d be taking a “hike” to the store to pick up a few things. She’d put on her long, black coat, touch on some lipstick, pat her silver-blonde hair into place and we’d be off. Back then a trip for some groceries was no easy task, for Grandma didn’t drive—and the nearest supermarket was at least a half hour’s walk each way.
Once we arrived, she’d pick out a few things from the shelves, count out the necessary bills and change from her rose-pink coin purse at the register, and we’d make our way back home. When we returned, I’d help her unpack her voluminous satchel—a large see-through plastic affair with giant flowers printed on the side. If she was making bean soup, she’d have white navy beans, onions, and bacon. If it was chicken and dumplings, there’d be chicken, biscuit mix, and peas. And there were always potatoes, cheese, and milk for her mouth-watering, creamy potato soup. Mmm, mmmmmm! It still makes me hungry just thinking about it.
As she’d start getting ready to cook, Grandma would always laugh and say, “There’s just something about soup that’s good for the soul!” I suppose I should mention that this was many years before the series of popular books was written under a similar title. At the time, I was too young to do much except get in her way, so I’d usually just sit at the kitchen table, swinging my legs beneath the chair and munching on saltine crackers while she worked. Grandma would put on her apron and hum, or sometimes even sing quietly to herself as she bustled about the kitchen.
It wasn’t long before the ingredients would start to simmer—and their appetizing aromas would begin to waft through the room. On her breaks between stirrings, tastings, and seasonings, Grandma and I would play games of “Old Maid” with our favorite card set. For those few who might remember them, they were small, pocket-sized cards with pairs of humorous characters printed on them (pictured in the photo above). The “Old Maid” was a rather wild and wacky looking spinster—and any time either one of us would pull her card from the others’ hand, we’d burst into helpless fits of laughter. It would be especially funny when one or the other of us would strategically place the card where the other might pick it—and the plan actually worked!
Finally, when the soup was done, I’d sit at the table with an old tea towel in place as a makeshift bib, breathing in the wonderful aromas and waiting impatiently. Grandma would bring me a warm bowl full and I’d savor every spoonful–always using a big spoon and some crumbled crackers to make sure I soaked up every last drop. I now realize that Grandma was right. Homemade soup doesn’t just warm your body, it warms your entire being, through and through—because it’s been made with love.
So what does this story—or soup, have to do with spirituality? As I’ve thought about organized religion and how its various forms relate to spirituality, I’ve come to see them as being a bit like the brands of prepared soup one might buy at the store. They’re packaged nicely, they offer some general nutritional value, and I can appreciate their flavor—but they’re not quite the same as a soup that’s been made from scratch in somebody’s home kitchen.
True spirituality, being that deeply personal connection one makes with his or her own Creator, is a lot more like Grandma’s homemade soup. It’s inherently simple, fresh, and savory—so it doesn’t need artificial additives, flavor enhancers, or preservatives. Oh—and there’s one more very important thing. Like all of Grandma’s soups, true spirituality is best—because it’s always made with love!
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