Oil of Grace by Cheryce Berg

My cast iron skillet is begging to be parented by a Southern mama. Even though I adopted it three years ago, I just decided today to take seriously the Care and Cleaning of Cast Iron Skillets. I’ve too often scrubbed it with soap and steel wool, and I may have oiled it once. This Midwest mama failed. It’s currently having a spa treatment, sitting upside down in my hot oven. Once it’s cool enough for me to touch, I’m going to massage it in oil, towel it off gently, and put it to back to bed, whispering words of recommitment.

I sigh as I think about the other things I don’t do well. I think it comes with January and all the hoopla about Making Resolutions, combined with the Lack of Sun and the Bitter Cold. Cast iron skillets are the least of my worries, really. Parenting Through Finals, Buying a Midlife Crisis Car, and Not Missing Another Meeting rise above. And don’t even remind me about Exercising Old Dogs in Winter, Calling Family or Writing Frequent Meaningful Blog Posts.

I just can’t keep up with it all. We had pancakes and bacon for dinner, with a failed heap of soggy hash browns (which triggered the cast iron skillet crisis). Not grilled bratwursts, like my 15–year–old wanted (the one studying for finals), or spaghetti soup like my husband requested  (yes, spaghetti soup is a thing. Think chili, not spicy, sporting a few spaghetti noodles. It’s okay, but it doesn’t make the menu that often. And neither will hash browns, after tonight.)

I hear myself sigh again. There are helpful books piled on my desk and fun books piled by the cold fireplace. Pictures to be organized on my laptop (Learning Lightroom—another To Do. Check back with me in 2021 to see how it’s going.) I have a list of people to grab chai with, even though I gave up chai yesterday. Miles to run on the treadmill, once I reassure myself that I won’t fly off the back in front of the cool moms. And stories to be written.

And also, breathing without sighing. I remember my One Resolution for 2018: to not be critical. It was meant for me to not be critical of others. But I realize it applies to myself, too. I need to learn to not be critical of myself. And to not sigh.

I remember what I’m reading in Genesis—how shocking it is, with heaps of failure and fornication. Really, everyone is such a mess. It makes me second guess my challenge to my 15–year–old (the one studying for finals and waiting for me to grill bratwurst in January) to read along with me, because the sins are so—dirty. And rampant.

Lying, murder, drunkenness, betrayal, adultery, doubt, shame, anger and death. And this is just part of the list, in part of the book, in part of the Bible.

Yet amazingly, Genesis flows with grace. Grace greases all the cogs on the misshapen wheels called us, and the story of redemption soars forward. God is faithful, even when—especially when—his people are not.

I think about my own self, and how I mess up every day. The image I struggle to maintain has cracks, and the older I get, the more noticeable they become (like wrinkles). Yet so does grace in my life. More noticed the more it is needed.

I think back to Jacob, a key figure in Genesis, and one in need of gallons of grace. Twice God speaks to him in the same place, near the same stones. And twice God reminds Jacob of promises too great to believe—of offspring and land and protection and God’s presence. And twice Jacob picks up the stones where God has spoken, standing them on end to form a pillar and anointing them with oil. The oil consecrates the stones—remakes something so common and rough into something of significance.


The oil signifies grace to me, poured out as a reminder that God is holy and perfect and I am not. And yet he doesn’t let me slip through his fingers. He holds on tight.

And I remember the same, tonight, as I go to oil my skillet, clean now of blackened bits. I remember as I pour oil over it and rub it in deep, that God gives grace, that he doesn’t give up.

And I am so grateful. Grateful for the oil of grace.