ONCE BURNED by Cynthia Ruchti

My seven-year-old grandson bragged that he now knows how to make a grilled cheese sandwich all by himself. And was eager to prove it to me.

So while I was roasting a ham and boiling potatoes to mash, he dragged a footstool to the stove, got out the proper pan, found a butter knife for the cow-sized slather of butter he used on the bread he’d found in the lazy susan, and prepped his sandwich.

He was careful and knew all the safety rules. But just as I snapped this picture, he made a mistake. He tried to straighten the cheese. His thumb brushed the edge of the pan and burned his tender skin.

Like most of us, he tried to ignore it. But the sting was insistent. So was I. I insisted we use the burn spray and tend to his small but distinct minor burn. He insisted on finishing his cooking project as soon as the thumb was doctored.

“Okay,” he said, “now I need a spatula.”

I watched as he carefully flipped the sandwich, watched as he bravely pressed on past his stinging thumb, watched as he grew up a little. I watched too as he presented his finished product–a perfectly browned grilled cheese sandwich…and a wide smile with one tooth missing.

His thumb will heal. And he’ll make more grilled cheese sandwiches, undeterred by the set-back.

Are we adults as tenacious?

If once burned by a friendship, do we shake it off and try again with that same friend? Once burned by a church, an employer, a business deal, a purchase…?

Do we shy away from the hard things that sting us in the process of learning? Or do we press through because that’s how a person learns how to make grilled cheese?

Some authors experience a stinging disappointment with a publisher, or a marketing fail, or a string of contest entries that don’t even final, or a book signing that afforded a lot of time to make conversation with the store staff and no book sales, and their reaction is resistance to try again. They assume the sting signaled failure, a reason to give up trying.

But persistence despite difficulties is where our growth lies.

The Apostle Paul expressed it this way: “We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out,” II Corinthians 4:8-9 CEB.

The conclusion of that passage of Scripture includes this life lesson that seems especially fitting for those of us who wrestle to turn stories into books for the sake of the readers who will find their own story hidden in the pages. “All these things are for your benefit. As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory (4:15).

How sad it would have been if my grandson had let a blister on his thumb stop his cooking career. Today, grilled cheese. Tomorrow, spaghetti.

Today might mean a negative review. Tomorrow might bring a deep heart-to-heart connection with a reader…if we persevere.

Cynthia Ruchti looks back on decades of preparation for her current work as an author and speaker who tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark. Her latest releases are When the Morning Glory Blooms (novel, Abingdon Press Fiction), Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices (nonfiction, Abingdon Press Christian Living), and Mornings With Jesus 2014 (devotions, Guideposts). You can connect with her at www.cynthiaruchti.com or www.facebook.com/CynthiaRuchtiReaderPage.