An encounter with pesto pizza traumatized me for my whole life.
Growing up as a missionary’s kid, we had very little money—Christmas gifts were a luxury, rent money was something we prayed for as a family to come in every month, and we used water and electricity very sparingly (I would time how long I used water in the shower, turning it off and on as needed). Those are all pretty normal things-- it really wasn’t a horror story.
Until the pesto pizza came. Dun. Dun. Dun.
We ate the same food we served the homeless: whatever was donated to the local food bank, and whatever was left over at the San Francisco Giants & 49ers ballparks—hotdogs, burgers, fries, etc. It was pretty baller. One year, Candlestick Park installed a new restaurant: a pizza restaurant. And this season in particular they had garbage bags left over filled with pesto pizza.
We were excited. We looked forward to it. And we ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For a week.
And then the next week.
And then the next week.
And the next.
Kids at school began to make fun of my consistently boring lunch. I started hating waking up, knowing what I had to heat up for breakfast. But my family and I were not complainers, we were very grateful, and we knew how to live with little, so I held it all in-- thinking that this was what it took to be in full-time ministry. It was about a month and a half of eating this once-amazing meal when at the dinner table, as my dad was praying for dinner, I started crying. “Daddy, PLEASE don’t make me eat pesto pizza anymore!” I couldn’t control it any longer; I start bawling my eyes out. My mom looked at him, “Yes honey, I think it’s time to buy some groceries.” My dad laughed, and later that night bought us some fresh food.
Not only did this story make me unable to enjoy pesto, pizza, and specifically pesto pizza for the rest of my life, but I commonly reference this story whenever God calls me to do something I don’t want to do. I see it as a hilarious example of what I once thought was “sacrificing for the Kingdom.” Because we were missionaries, we commonly gave up luxuries for the sake of the Gospel. But for whatever reason—this is the story that sticks out—whenever God asks me to sacrifice something else, be humbled once again, or live with little once more, I am known amongst my friends for joking, saying, “God! Don’t forget about the pesto pizza!”
Of course, this isn’t serious. I’m not really bitter towards God about this (though I can’t say the same towards my parents). But this is a childhood story that shows a real, adult truth. Sometimes, I feel the need to remind God of the sacrifices I’ve already made for Him, letting Him know I’ve already paid my dues, and if anyone owes anyone, HE owes ME.
When God called me in my adult life to leave a job, be in full-time ministry, and live by faith once again, I thought, “Haven’t I been poor enough already?” When He called me to leave relationships behind, I thought, “Haven’t I lost enough people already?” When I had to couch-surf, and be practically homeless for years so my traveling ministry could continue, I thought, “When is this going to end? When is He done asking so much of me?” Time and time again, I constantly want to say, “God! Don’t forget about the pesto pizza!”
Galatians 6:9 states, “So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up.”
I know sometimes we get tired of doing what is good. I know we feel like we’ve sacrificed enough, worked hard enough, and frankly are exhausted from this never-ending dying to ourselves. But through His Word, and through the Apostle Paul, God urges His children to not grow tired, weary, or faint. Keep forgiving that one friend who doesn’t make you a priority. Keep trying to reconcile with that one family member who hurt you. Keep investing into your kids, even when days are overwhelming. Keep putting in the blood, sweat, and tears into your youth ministry. Keep giving back to God a percentage of your income. Keep asking God what more you can do in your community. He says at the right time, we will be blessed, there will be fruit to our labor—but we can’t give up.
My dad once said something like this when I very little. After a particular week on the streets serving the homeless, where a demon-possessed women was physically violent towards me, a man assaulted my mother, hit her and broke our ministry’s equipment, and my dad was pulled of the stage and beaten until he was bloody everywhere, I remember begging my dad to not make me go on the streets again that week. I was tired, I was scared, and I had paid my dues for the month. My dad said, “Hosanna, do people still need Jesus?” I cried, “Yes, Daddy.” He said, “Then we can’t stop going. Get dressed, and let’s go.”
We can’t grow tired of the sacrifice. We can’t get discouraged from the vast amounts of setbacks. We can’t stop doing good. God promises us blessings if we don’t give up—and His blessings are the best.
I want to remind God of all the days I was on the road going hungry, the pictures in my mind of my father beat up on the cement in front of me, the days when I desperately wanted a long, warm shower—I want to remind God everyday of the pesto pizza, and let him know, the buck stops here.
But God doesn’t owe me. He has given me salvation, the greatest gift. My life is His. It is no sacrifice—it is a privilege and joy to serve God again today.
I reflect on this verse. I will not get tired.
I reflect on what my dad said. People still need Jesus.
Today, I’ll get dressed, and go.
God remembers the pesto pizza.
We can’t stop going.