A Pinch of Salt

Since quarantine, I have done a ton of baking. It’s a craft that tidily fits into all the buckets that connect with my soul: practical, part art, part science, that is done when it is done. It is artistic efficiency.

Yet as I measure out my thoughts in ounces and teaspoons, I am in my head quite a bit. Often I’m reviewing what these past few years have revealed about me and how I interact with the world around me. Sometimes I am tasting and testing, mulling over flavor profiles and techniques, experimenting.

One surprise in baking has been the addition of the “pinch of salt.” In caramel. Chocolate. Strawberry buttercream. This would-be intruder into the world of sweets provides an unexpected pop of flavor that enhances the flavor profile. It compliments without compromising. It makes the strawberry taste more strawberry. The chocolate dynamic. It cuts the sweet of the caramel and elevates it.

I laugh because I am salt.

What the last two years has taught me is that being distressed for not belonging is pointless. In my own anguish of trying to understand why I wasn’t “enough,” I was inviting the temptation to compromise myself in ways that diminished me and the world around me. The realization felt frustrating and even selfish, but I ask you to hear me out.

I had to ask myself, “What am I losing by trying to be an insider?” How was conformity squeezing and leashing me in ways that robbed my ability to flourish? What happens when I show up as my full, outsider self? I show up strong. I show up kind. Curious. Excited. Relaxed.

I also asked, “What is the world around me losing when I show up desperate to be an insider?” I grieve the ways I can’t champion you or care for you. The energy I bring to your big dreams and ideas. The tough but loving questions I may ask. The sheer delight I experience when you live into the fullness of who you are.

Because I am salt. I don’t care to be a star ingredient.

I am fine being an outsider, living on the periphery.

But when I do show up, when you make space for me to be myself, I make the strawberry more strawberry. The chocolate more dynamic. I get deliriously excited for you to be more of the best of “you.” 

I have also experienced the opposite. Organizations and communities that insist on bringing me in, attempting to grab fistfuls of my ability to add to their mix. Wanting my unique contribution while squeezing the spark in my soul to the point of extinction. I know how to easily resist the quick clutch. But now, thankfully, I can spot the long, slow squeeze of unwritten expectations that ask for the singularity of what I uniquely bring while demanding I let go of who I am. They say they want salt—a disruptor, new blood, an outside perspective, a fresh take—but then, the system sits up to actively and silently resist what I bring to the table.

But salt is salt is salt is salt. Even the biblical scriptures tell us that salt loses its worth when it is no longer salty. It has no value in the savory or sweet when it is no longer itself.

It is not that I resist being part of a team or that I refuse to wear the uniform. Rather, a master baker knows that salt sits proudly next to the rest of the ingredients, each playing their part, to make a dish beautiful. Even if it feels like it doesn’t belong. The master baker doesn’t resist the outsider. She revels in what it brings.

Eliza Cortes Bast is a fierce and honest follower of Jesus. She is a pastor and denominational executive, dedicated to helping churches think missionally. She lives into her passion by connecting people, advocating for the community, and helping organizations think strategically so they can be healthy, vibrant, and sustainable. Eliza lives in Michigan with her patient and handsome husband EJ, and their two boys. Her loves include her home country Puerto Rico, her interracial marriage, a good steak, salsa dancing, writing, empowering emerging leaders, making the impossible possible, Diet Coke, and mentoring. She is not a big fan of anger without action, generalizations, basketball, and saying you can’t live without coffee. She believes you can because she believes in you.