In a thoughtful attempt to domesticate me, my mother gave me a bread machine for my birthday when I was a sophomore at college. At the time I was eating mostly ramen noodles and raisin bran, so surely this would expand my repertoire. All you have to do is put the ingredients in the bread pan; so what could go wrong? Turns out a lot can go wrong. First, I would forget yeast or some other ingredient or I would not put the timer on right and a soggy mess would be waiting when i got to it. I was frustrated after having to eat a few brick-like loaves and scrubbing dried hunks of dough out of the whole machine multiple times. I followed the directions more carefully and still the dough exploded over the whole machine and baked into a mess. Time for some more serious investigation.
Eventually I determined that the instruction manual that came with the machine, from which I was taking my recipes, was for a machine with a larger bread pan. I had been trying to make a 1.5 lb. loaf of bread in a pan with a 1 lb. loaf capacity. No wonder it was so messy and doughy! But I was following the instructions! No matter how carefully I repeated the instructions, I would have never come out with a perfectly formed loaf. I had to recalculate to get an edible loaf the right size.
In my own life, I willingly followed the instruction manual I was taught. I was expecting a perfectly leavened rosy outcome to be the result. I was convinced the instruction manual I was following WAS the gospel. I was raised to be a wife and mother. It was supposed to bring me true happiness and joy. I went to seminary, I went to church, I went to BYU, I went to the temple and married. I went on to have a baby and then another. I went to church and supported my husband as gospel doctrine teacher, ward clerk, a counselor in the bishopric, high priest group leader, and in another bishopric. I had more babies. I brought them all to church by myself and sat alone in the pew for years. I stayed home while he studied and then while he worked. I baked bread, I cooked rice and beans. I studied conference talks. I used my food storage regularly. I read scriptures daily with my children. I had family home evening every week. When I was unhappy I studied the words of my church leaders about my role, and tried to more perfectly follow the recipe. It didn’t work. I tried to make my life fit in the pan, but it exploded all over. I was miserable and exhausted. I was an invisible mess.
Turns out the instruction manual was for a different model. Turns out all along there were women writing their own manual and their own recipes for their own life. They just intuitively knew what kind of bread to bake and easily found how much of each ingredient to put in. For me, it has been a rough road to conceptualize that I could choose which kind of bread to bake. It is taking some troubleshooting to figure out how to remake my life. Setting aside the recipe found in the ‘manual’; recalculating to make a fitting bread of life. There are other ways to bake bread than in a machine. There are other recipes. There are so many many different kinds of bread. So many lives that may be acceptable to God. And maybe even a life that will be also one I can continue to live.