A Reality TV Show Is Helping Me Follow Jesus
So for several weeks late last fall I kept scrolling past the Great British Baking Show on Netflix’s “Recommended for You” queue. Why would Netflix recommend this show simply because I love all things baking and British?
The Great British Baking Show is a reality television series where ordinary men and women from across Great Britain compete to win the title of best amateur baker. Every week, the contestants create three different “bakes” and are critiqued by professional bakers, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. In each episode one contestant is eliminated based on his or her performance, until a final contestant emerges as the winner.
Eventually a friend whose taste I trust told me I needed to watch the show and that I would enjoy it. With that recommendation, I powered up my Roku, pulled up Netflix and pressed play.
As another friend recently noted, the question isn’t “Have you watched the Great British Baking Show?” Rather, “Have you binged the Great British Baking Show?”
And last December, binge I did.
Seeing Myself in the GBBS
As I watched episode after episode of the GBBS, I found myself cheering for my favorite contestants, grimacing over the drama (yes, assembling a cake can be dramatic) and keeping a mental list of recipes I wanted to bake.
As I watched the contestants bake schichttorte and kouign-amann, I saw myself in a way I hadn’t before. To my shock, I found myself crying through almost every episode.
At the heart of the Great British Baking Show are stories of men and women giving themselves to endeavors they love without knowing the outcome. For these bakers, the final product doesn’t ultimately matter. They care about showing up and doing the work they love.
The Awkward Moments & Failures
I often find myself hesitating in obedience to Jesus and doing the good work He’s given me because I’m unsure of the outcome.
I have an image of what I want to be, and that’s what I want people to see. I want to be chic, well-read, witty and perfectly hospitable. I want to be known as the type of woman who puts her mind to something and makes it happen. I don’t want to be the girl who is awkward. I don’t want to be the girl who fails.
The problem arises when Jesus calls me to do something where awkwardness and failure are viable outcomes, whether it’s tutoring at-risk student or taking on a new project in my work.
Sammy Rhodes, a college pastor in South Carolina and author of This is Awkward, defines awkwardness as the “gap between what you are and what you should be, a disconnect between the real you and the ideal you.”
Throughout the GBBS, contestant after contestant describes their plans to create intricate and impressive bakes, only to have those bakes go awry. A misread recipe or poor technique quickly exposes the gap between the contestants’ ideal baking skills and their real baking skills.
It’s in those awkward moments, however, the contestants are seen for who they truly are as bakers, and through that, they’re given freedom to grow, learn and improve.
“I’ve had some real fantastic highs, and I’ve had some really bad lows, and some really bad bakes. But that’s the nature of it. You’re not going to come in here and bake everything to perfection,” said one participant, reflecting on his time on the show. “Yeah, I’m going to eat a genoise again. I’ll make sure I know how to make the … thing.”
There aren’t just awkward moments in the GBBS. Despite the bakers’ best efforts, every week someone comes up short during the challenge and returns home. Yet, the contestants who leave the show never say they’re done baking. Of the 20+ episodes I’ve watched, every baker leaves the white tent glad to have participated, with plans to bake again.
When one of my favorite contestants left the show due to her poor pastry performance, she described her feelings of leaving this way: “Gutted. Absolutely gutted. I’m overwhelmingly pleased to have done it. I’ll never stop baking. Obviously, I’ll never stop baking.”
When I consider an endeavor, I often think it’s not worth beginning the work if success is uncertain. I fail to realize the goal isn’t a successful outcome; faithfully following Jesus and becoming the woman He created me to be is my objective.
Through simply being vulnerable (which means opening myself to uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure, as defined by Brené Brown), I’m able to confidently obey Jesus wherever He calls.
Faithful Through It All
The winner of the recent season faced multiple awkward moments and several failures during her time in the GBBO tent. As she gave a final interview for the show, she explained what she learned through the process: “I am never ever going to put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never going to say I can’t do it. I’m never going to say maybe. I’m never going to say I don’t think I can. I can and I will.”
For the Christian, we not only echo her words but can shout them with far more confidence. For we know not that we’ll be successful in every endeavor, but as we follow Jesus and live faithfully in the story He’s calling us into, we know that showing up and letting ourselves be seen, alongside obeying God with our eyes fixed on Him, is our end goal.
You and I probably won’t have an opportunity to enter a baking competition. However, we do have opportunities to quietly follow Jesus in the face of awkwardness and failure on daily basis. It could be as simple as talking to the visitor at church or beginning a new hobby you’ve always wanted to explore. Maybe it looks like taking on a new responsibility at work, even though you know you’ll need to ask for help. Perhaps it could be hosting a dinner party for your friends, though you fear no one will come.
Like the bakers in the tent, we’ll inevitably encounter moments of awkwardness and failure along the way. It’s precisely in those moments where Jesus will shine, and we can rest in the truth we’ve followed Him — and that is our end goal.
About the Author
Abigail Murrish is a professional writer and amateur cook with a love for agriculture and gathering people around the table. Though she dreamed of a busy life in a big city while in college, she’s thankful for her quiet life in the Midwest where she spends most of her days writing and reading, drinking tea, walking her dog, putzing in her kitchen and sharing daily life with her husband, neighbors and church. Also, she likes to watch TV and is an avid fan of Parks and Recreation, the Great British Bake Off and Broadchurch. Find more of Abigail’s writing at abigailmurrish.com.