Last weekend, I made my first lemon tart. It was a New York Times recipe that required a dozen eggs, three sticks of butter, and many minutes of whisking. Its many steps left much room for error, but I thought that the process would be rewarding and instructive no matter the result. So away I went!
I have a feeling Paul Hollywood would have disapproved the tart’s slightly-darkened top, but I am pleased to report that it did not have a soggy bottom! The lemon tart was the crowning jewel to my Easter feast, and it was delicious. The crust was flakey and the filling was refreshing—not too sweet or too sour. It was a fitting dessert for this time of life, a time when the sour and sweet exist side by side.
The sweet of this spring—I’ve heard more from my friends than I used to, listened to some excellent live-streamed concerts with a favorite artist “The Tallest Man on Earth” every Friday afternoon, and have had quality time to think, pray, and write. The sour of this spring—I’ve missed my family and felt guilty for not being in better touch some of them, I’ve not always used my time well, and can be really self-centered much of the time. It is hard to find balance, not live in the extremes. Being a part of a paradox is not easy.
Even the outdoors seem to be playing into the paradoxes. Outside my window is a beautiful magnolia tree whose blooms peaked late last week. Within a few days, chilly spring weather returned and the snow and frost turned many of the blooms a strange tinge of orange. The petals have begun to drop to the ground, covering the windshield of my car that remains parked in the driveway until the next time I take my weekly 5-minute drive to Aldi. The tree was such a sweet blessing to me and my roommate, but I am so sad to see the blooms fall. Couldn’t they just have stayed a little bit longer?
One of my least favorite quotes in the entire world is, “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.” This quote and others like have conditioned me to scold myself for feeling upset in moments when I felt like I was being a bad Christian for not falling quickly into gratitude. Moments like when the tree outside my window started to lose its luster and I think: “Be grateful you got to see the blooms at all!” Similarly, I think if all the work I went to in making that lemon tart would have yielded an unbalanced and unsatisfactory dessert, I might have told myself to be grateful for the process. But in actuality, I would have been mad that I wasted time, ingredients, and more. I would NOT have been “smiling because it happened.” And while it is certainly important to practice gratitude, I do not think forcing ourselves to be happy about the dying blooms and the ruined tart is the right response, either.
The sour and sweet can make something beautiful, but it often takes time, balance, effort, the right conditions, and one last very important and unmerited element: grace. In The Spring of Lemon Tart, grace will continue to be an ingredient I need to have introduced into my daily diet. I will scold myself for being too happy, for being too sad, for being ungrateful, for being too boastful, for craving only sweet, for remembering only the sour. Grace will be the great equalizer and balancer. The key ingredient. The essential reminder in the midst of the paradox.
As Easter reminds me, the Christian life exists within and because of paradoxes. So here’s to The Spring of Lemon Tart, a dessert to enjoy in a season of many paradoxes.