Perhaps this story would fit better under the title Jell-o 911… (Or 999, if you live in Hong Kong)…
I’m teaching the Thursday morning Ladies’ Bible Study this week on the passage in Romans 12, which states, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world…” Because I’m dealing with an English-as-a-second-language group of women, I thought an object lesson would be appropriate. Hmmm… what could adequately portray the concept of conformity… how about Jell-o? (Or, jelly, as they call it in this culture.)
Despite wanting to stay home yesterday (it was my day off), I trekked off to the store in search of Jell-o. I picked up one box of strawberry Jell-o, and then thought to myself that I should probably prepare two boxes in case more women than usual showed up. (Of course, I wanted to make enough for them to sample.) I stepped away from the gelatin section, then remembered past cooking experiences of mine, and went back for a third box… just in case.
Now, you must understand that I don’t even like Jell-o. In my mind, it’s right up there with applesauce, Sprite and chicken noodle soup. (What are… things my mother fed me when I had a stomach virus?) Nonetheless, I was willing to prepare it for its spiritual value; and since I haven’t eaten any Jell-o in at least seven years, perhaps I might even like it now.
So, armed with three boxes of strawberry Jell-o and a kettle of boiling water, I embark on the project. After much debate and a full survey of my entire collection of dishes, I chose three ice trays with Texas-shaped cutouts, thinking this would amuse the ladies and provide an opportunity for a geography lesson. (Yes, I own three “Tex-ice” trays in varying colors.)
The next step in the project is choosing a recipe. Each Jell-o box contains approximately five variations on this standard snack: regular Jell-o, fast-set Jell-o, Jell-o with fruit, Jell-o in layers with whipped cream, Jell-o Jigglers…
Choosing the “regular” instructions, I proceeded to pour the powder into the bowl, run out of the kitchen in a sneezing fit (the next time I blew my nose, there were strawberry particles on the Kleenex) and stir in the boiling water. After successfully completing the recipe instructions, I began pouring the red liquid into the tiny cavities of the ice cube tray with minimal spillage. I felt pleased with my accomplishment and was glad to see the red dye didn’t stain the counters permanently.
Four hours later, I decide to test out my spiritual object lesson. You see, I wanted to have a visual teaching moment in the middle of the Bible study class: a powerful retelling of the Jell-o-making process, followed by a dramatic unveiling of the ice cube trays, complete with a perfectly-formed, Texas-shaped Jell-o bite which had conformed to the shape of the container.
Since I’m taking the time to write this story, you’ve probably already guessed that things didn’t turn out as planned…
I had no idea that the properties of Jell-o cause it to conform so much to the container so as to prevent easy removal. For ten minutes, I shook that ice tray so hard that bits of red gelatin flew off in every corner of my kitchen, and yet, the bulk of the shape stayed glued to the plastic tray. Next, I tried soaking the bottom of the tray in hot water for several seconds. This did in fact release one Jell-o bit, but it had so disintegrated in the heat, it was unrecognizable. The last resort was to use a sharp kitchen knife to gently cut the Jell-o away from the sides of the tray… a nightmare which left me wishing I was a Colorado native rather than a Texan.
I finally resigned myself to the fact that there would be no Lone Star State Jell-o bites for the ladies to enjoy, but I still wanted to salvage the conformity concept. So, pulling out the third and final box of Jell-o, I studied the recipe for Jell-o Jigglers and concluded that that was the proper way to prepare what I had in mind. Unfortunately, it called for four boxes of Jell-o, so I was forced to quarter the recipe. Fractions have never been a comfortable subject for me, so I cleverly converted the fractional recipe to decimals. This proved problematic though when I tried to divide 2 ½ cups of boiling water into four parts (i.e. how do I measure .625 cups of water?).
Fudging a bit, I mixed the water with the gelatin powder (carefully, this time) and debated about which mold to use. No longer feeling it necessary to remain loyal to my home state (plus, I didn’t feel like cleaning out the ice cube trays at that moment), I chose a flat baking dish. The hot liquid barely covered the bottom of the pan, but I thought it was sufficient for my project. I planned to wake up early the next morning and set out to work with a cookie cutter, in keeping with the theme of conformity.
This morning, however, I discovered that the shelves in my refrigerator are not level, and I now have a thin—and extremely uneven—layer of Jell-o covering half the baking dish. Having already eaten some of my mistakes last night, I realized that my Jell-o taste-buds have not changed, and I am now hopelessly stuck with a refrigerator full of various shapes of strawberry gelatin, too ugly to serve, and completely unsuitable for an object lesson.
Or is it…
Perhaps this more-than-adequately shows the pitfalls of conformity. The Jell-o had permanently conformed to the sides of the ice cube trays; even when it was released, it bore the scars of conformity. Realizing it was too early in the morning for a mental theological debate, and considering that I was too lazy to haul multiple containers of this wretched red substance down the hill, I gave up.
A nice picture of a sheep on the PowerPoint screen conveyed the spiritual concept of conformity very well…and it was much less sticky.