Cooking from the Heart

  • Nathan Schneider
Man cutting vegetables on a cutting board

By no means would I ever claim the title of chef. Far from it, the most I could say I do is merely dabble in the culinary arts. I do it, for one, because it’s fun. It’s fun and exciting to create things. But more than anything, I do it because…well…I like to eat food. Usually, it tastes really good to eat something you’ve made.


Growing up, I didn’t have very much interest in cooking. If you were to ask my mom, she’d likely say that she would have loved for me to develop an interest in things related to the kitchen. Every once in a while I would help her make cookies. By the time I was in Jr. high or high school, I became the main pancake maker for the family, but even that was not an every-week occurrence.

It was much later before I began to actually grow a genuine, from-the-heart interest in cooking. I don’t know all of the factors that surrounded that change. They were slow and gradual, mixed with a variety of intentions and motivations. But, much to my wife’s delight, it is not uncommon for me to take a place in the kitchen as part of the family meal prep. Now, to be honest…and she’ll be the first to say this with unnatural enthusiasm…when I cook, it tends to get complicated. More often than not, I will work on one main dish for an evening meal. Meanwhile, she has completed all the other side dishes, doing two-to-three times as much work, and making my actual presence in the kitchen a little unclear as to how it was actually “helpful.”

Nonetheless, my wife and I have an understanding. She “allows” me in the kitchen to cook whatever it is I really want to make. I make things super complicated. We eat it and enjoy it. Then I do the dishes. There’s symbiosis here and it works for us most of the time. In fact, having both of us cooking enthusiastically in the kitchen is part of what makes our relationship and our marriage more fun. We get to do something together that we love and enjoy. And then I do the dishes.

Now, for any of you who are familiar with the enneagram, I fall pretty hard into type 5. Honestly, my wife pegged me with that category the instant she started reading about it. I was that easy to nail down. I’m an investigator, a student, a researcher. I need to know and understand things. It’s not enough for me to simply do something. I want need to know why and how.

Applying that personality to the kitchen, it doesn’t take long for me to be bored and uninspired with following a recipe. Yes, I find recipes and follow them. They are roads, after all, and hopefully they lead to someplace full of wonderful gastronomic delights. But just following a recipe isn’t inspiring. It’s utilitarian. I need to. But it doesn’t satisfy. I need to know why I’m doing what I’m doing.

I found that out pretty early on as I began to develop my interest in cooking. At first, I started where most guys tend to start…with fire. I was on a quest to make smoked pork ribs, and to do it the right way. In that quest, I stumbled upon a website that changed my life. I know that’s a big statement, but it’s true. It changed my life because it offered just what my type 5 investigator personality desperately longed for…the why in cooking. The website was, and the subtitle of the site said it all: “The Science of BBQ and Grilling.” Now if that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will.

What made this site different from other places was that long before you get to any recipe, the site explores and explains the science of cooking. There’s amazing things that go on at a molecular level when you cook food, and understanding what’s happening makes the difference between following a step-by-step recipe versus feeling the freedom to cook and create. That’s essentially what culinary school teaches you. The cooking techniques that have been created and refined throughout the centuries exist based on a well-established knowledge of culinary science.

I’m going to double down on my opening statement…I am not a chef. There are worlds of knowledge and techniques and skills I don’t have in the kitchen, and no amount of research can make up for that kind of intense training. But as I have grown in my understanding of food science, I would be understating the matter if I said that this knowledge did not have profound influence on my cooking. I cook better based on my understanding of science. I cook more creatively because of it. And, probably most importantly, I enjoy cooking more than I ever have because I’m not completely encumbered by the burden of blindly following a recipe.

With all of that said, I think there’s a spiritual principle to understand in all of this. When you become a Christian, something profound happens. You go from being a slave to being free. You go from being under the tyranny of sin and the crushing burden that it brings to being unencumbered.

There are release valves for this burden that the world tries to create. Even God’s people can take what is good and pervert it to their own destruction. That’s what the Pharisees did with the law. They took the Mosaic law and made it a burden…a set of rules to blindly follow. Rather than recognize the law as the expression of true worship and loyalty to God from a believing heart, it was thrust upon everyone as a means of pleasing God and being in good standing with him apart from a believing heart. It was given to Israel to be lived out by faith. But it ended up becoming a rule of life apart from faith.

All of this simply points out the limitations of the Old Covenant. It was never meant to be permanent. Instead, it pointed to something better, and anticipated something greater. When Christ came, he realized everything that the law was pointing to so that when he died on the cross, he could say those fateful words with absolute certainty: “It is finished” (John 19:30).

What replaced it was something better. Something different yet the same. Something that was foretold and promised long before Christ ever spoke those words. The old covenant would be replaced by a new covenant, a better covenant:

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

I want you to see the key difference between the old and the new. With the old, the law was external. It was written on tablets of stone. It didn’t guarantee a genuine relationship with God. But the new covenant is different. There is still a law. That hasn’t gone away. But the law isn’t external anymore. It’s internal. It’s written on the heart. And it’s wedded with a genuine spiritual relationship with God. The participant in this new covenant doesn’t see the law as a burden anymore. Obedience and love and loyalty…the un-guaranteed goals of the old covenant…are integral components of the new covenant.

This is the amazing thing that God has done. He took what was once external and put it in our hearts. He took away the burden of the law. We don’t have to simply follow the recipe anymore, without understanding. Spiritual living is not utilitarian. The principles have been put in our hearts. We understand why and how for the first time.

That’s what it means to live as new covenant Christians. It’s not a life made up of following lists and rules. It’s a life lived out in faith, informed and energized by a law written on our hearts, and empowered by God’s own Spirit, who enables us to do what we could not do otherwise. As we let the word of Christ “dwell richly” in us (Col 3:16), we live out the intent of the law in everyday life…to love God fully and to love others as ourselves. How and what that looks like may change from day to day, and situation to situation. But that’s the point. It’s not external. It’s not a set of rules. It’s not a list of contingency protocols. It’s not a recipe to follow. It’s a knowledge of Christ and His word that gives us the wisdom to live out God’s will and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal 6:2).

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:9-14)