Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale [and learning to sit in the dark]
I scroll through my social media feeds, read articles about the latest news, and listen while a friend shares her heartache. It all feels so heavy. It is so heavy, the corporate hurts and the individual heartaches, the mundane struggles and worldwide crises. Some griefs are deeper than others, and I have the luxury of walking away from the news or giving up social media for a while before the weight crushes me. But the world is a hard, dark place, and I’m trying to learn what it means to mourn with those who mourn, to sit in the darkness without the darkness swallowing me whole.
I believe God will one day make all things new. He will fully bring his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, he will put everything right, he will bring justice and restoration and glory and joy. But we’re not there yet. We’re in this strange “already but not yet” place, a place still speaking the language of lament. My brothers and sisters throughout the world speak it fluently, but I easily forget. It’s a language that’s not easy to listen to, one I want to silence and ignore.
Frederick Buechner writes, “But if (the preacher) does not make real to them the human experience of what it is to cry into the storm and receive no answer, to be sick at heart and find no healing, then he becomes the only one there who seems not to have had that experience because most surely under their bonnets and shawls and jackets, under their afros and ponytails, all the others there have had it whether they talk of it or not.”
I so often look for a solution. I look to speak a word that will fix what is wrong or at least attempt to silence such uncomfortable sorrow. But the Gospel we preach must be big enough for the nights when solution seems far off, sure enough to sustain us when our God seems absent. It must be clear enough to speak to tongue-tied souls that can barely mutter a prayer. Because even when we can’t bring ourselves to preach, the Gospel remains true in our silence.
We hold up our heroes in the faith, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and more. But we gloss over what Hebrews 11:13 says, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised.”
Is our Gospel strong enough to hold us if we die without receiving?
The same Gospel for which so many are killed is the same Gospel that sustains in the day-to-day. It’s not a gospel of easy solutions, quick fixes, or temporary comfort—that’s no Gospel at all. If that’s what I preach to myself and others, we’ll all too quickly find that gospel will crash with even the smallest storm. Superficial solutions make a feeble gospel.
Those heroes of the faith died before receiving. Jesus wept before raising Lazarus. He was crucified before he rose from the dead. But the Gospel—the true, sure, life-altering Gospel—says that his promises will come to pass. Our weeping will turn to rejoicing. The dead will be raised. The same Spirit who raised Jesus will give life to our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11). And so we live according to that Spirit with enduring faith, come what may. That is a Gospel to cling to—and it will hold us.
As we wait in this “not yet” place, we weep and mourn, wrestle and plead. We learn to speak the language of lament knowing that one day our God will turn those cries into rejoicing. We work for change, justice, growth, and renewal, standing not on the shaky ground of cursory solutions but on the sure foundation of the kingdom of God, a kingdom that can never be shaken (Hebrews 12:28).
Whether in seasons of deep grief or ordinary heartache, we all need encouragement. But sometimes when we long to speak life-giving words and give comfort, our mouths get dry. We say something stupid. Suddenly we realize we have no idea what to do with our hands. (All these things happen to me all the time. Please tell me I’m not the only one!)
When you need to fill the silence or process sorrow by putting your hands to work, food is a great place to start. This recipe is a hearty, comforting dish that travels well so it’s perfect for sharing with friends or family who need a little encouragement.
Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale
Yields 6-8 servings
1 pound orecchiette pasta (other types of pasta work, too!)
12-16 ounces bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces chopped kale
1 ½ cups shredded Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 to 2 ½ cups of the pasta water.
Meanwhile, heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook for about 4-6 minutes, until some of the fat renders out and it just starts to get crisp. Add the diced onion and cook for another minute until the onions begin to soften.
Add the sliced mushrooms and the garlic. Cook until the bacon is fully cooked, the onions translucent, and the mushrooms soft, stirring every few minutes. You want the onions and mushrooms to take on a darker color and get a little caramelized. This should take about 12-15 minutes.
Turn the heat to low. Add the cooked pasta, kale, and 1 cup of the pasta water. Cook for a couple minutes, stirring everything together, until the kale wilts and the ingredients are fully incorporated.
Stir in the shredded parm. Add additional pasta water, a quarter cup at a time, until the pasta has the consistency you like. (I end up using another cup, for a total of 2 cups of pasta water.)
Season with salt and pepper to taste. The Parmesan and bacon give this dish a decent amount of salty flavor, so you shouldn’t need a ton of salt, but I do like to add in plenty of black pepper. Top with red pepper flakes for a kick of heat.
Serve with garlic bread and a fresh salad if you like, or enjoy the dish on its own! Pair it with a crisp, dry white wine like Pinot Grigio. The wine balances out the richness of the pasta perfectly. Enjoy!