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Sunday, September 6, 2015

When You're Swallowed Whole and Life Gets Kinda Organic

Organic lemonade. Powdered greens in a canister boasting "25 Billion Probiotics." The list of ingredients is three columns long from brim to base in small print and I can nearly see the canister flex with health as I pump my arm back and forth because I can't read the label. I wonder if this powder will strengthen my eyes that just don't flex well anymore. Me thinks not.

I scoop 25 billion probiotics into a glass of anything flavorful enough to disguise the taste of green powder concentrate and, "Where are my reading glasses, anyway?" I'm too indifferent to search for them and, Really? How can I drink 25 billion probiotics and be near and far-sighted?

Oh, I also talk to myself. All the time. It helps me think when I listen to what I have to say.

"I can't figure out," I say, "if I should wear glasses or contact lenses for distance, because if I wear contact lenses then I really need reading glasses and enough vim to search for them every time I have something to read. And that's like, all the time."

Well. I'm trying to read this ingredient label written for people who must take 25 billion pro-eyeotics, and this seventeen year old sun-bleached, sun-tanned daughter who's registered with the Red Cross, has about five medical certifications, and guards lives at the outdoor pool saunters into the kitchen where I'm deliberating with myself and a canister of probiotics. "But if I wear glasses," I shift my attention to the one who makes life-saving decisions in split seconds, "then I can still see! Sort of."

She quirks her head at me.

"If the letters aren't too small." I finish in a small voice.

She laughs and knows better than to suggest bi-focals. Not happening. Not yet.

I grab my car keys. "I'll be back soon! I'm going to Walmart to, uh, pick up the pair of glasses I ordered. They're ready."

I hold my head up high and walk to the door with more dignity than someone who talks to a canister of probiotics.

Green bell peppers. They're organic. I planted them in a fire pit that finally rusted through and can't hold fire but can be lined with garden tarp to hold soil and greens. Thing is, a worm has stripped them. I thought I caught it, but there must be more of them because on my way to the driveway I noticed shreds and shreds of bell pepper stalks, leaves, and peppers littering the soil. Three bell peppers are half eaten, the leaves are chewed ragged, and the worms insult gravely by what they leave behind right smack on the leaves where they bowl. Tiny dark pies of everything organic. They know what they're doing.

Worm Stripped

I'm certain I've heard God, the Holy Author of the Book for holy living on this organic orb say things like, "E-hem, dear? You're walking in hope, again."

I hear Him now, and for the ump-teenth time I open my instruction Book for holy living to Hebrews 11:1 because I need to be reminded what faith is, and what hope is, and how they go together to order my steps.

"Now faith is," I read again, "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

I'm getting it, slowly. Getting it down to my toes where the walking happens. "Since faith is substance and evidence, and hope isn't, then it's obvious that I must walk by faith."

"Obviously," He agrees.

"So why, Lord," I ask a tad confounded because I'm logistically challenged, "do I keep getting it backward?"

"Because," He's going to give it to me straight, "the reality of My hope, not yours, is the base for faith."

I read the footnote to His definition of faith and learn that it is living, making decisions, basing what I do on who He is.

"Ah!" I'm getting it. "You are my hope!"

He tells me to walk by faith. I try. It's hard remember the steps because I'm prone to elevate my way over His way, and my wishes over Him. It sounds ridiculous to say it. But there it is. It's the confusion that happens when I get faith and hope confused.

When I plant green peppers, I expect green peppers on my cutting board. Smug worms invisible to eyes the likes of mine are not part of my plan.

They fit nowhere in what I hope for.

Yet, they are there just gnawing at my hopes and, may I just say there are worms that gnaw life ragged sometimes.

They chew through savings accounts.

They crunch up cars till the wheels fall off.

They munch on houses till there are too many repairs.

And they gnaw at the reasons I have to believe for the things that I hope for till faith sort of gets a little ragged.

But I recall a worm, and a plant, and a prophet who was too angry to see straight. I get it. God asked him to do what he'd rather die than do.

He refused.

He invited sailors to throw him overboard into the churning sea and maybe he kind of hoped he'd escape doing what God was flat out going to have him do, by drowning instead. But no.

He was swallowed by a whale. A dubious rescue that surely did nothing to change his mind about preferring death. Maybe he sort of hoped he'd die by digestion. But no.

He became whale vomit. And I wonder if he didn't clean up after that because maybe no one in Nineveh would listen to a man who looked insane and smelled of whale vomit. But no.

They listened.

God had His way.

The Ninevites Jonah despised had the audacity to repent.

"Lorrrrd!" I can hear Jonah bellow his stress, "This is why I ran away to Tarshish!" I picture dramatic hand gestures. "I knew that You are a merciful God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love," he must have spit the words out.

It's a strange way to magnify God, but maybe it shouldn't seem as foreign as it does. It's actually kind of humorous, I think. I wonder if God wanted to laugh at the absurdity? Except, He doesn't laugh when His children are loosing it and can't hear what they're saying because all they can hear is what they're feeling.

Tomatoe Worm

How does this strange magnification of God work?

It works only after years of filling the belly of my soul with everything God reveals to me of Himself.

Forget organics, and billions of probiotics for digestive health, and garden greens. The really good stuff is the likes of what came out of Jonah's mouth after he was wrapped in the kind of seaweed that's conveniently dried and packaged in a canister of probiotics, was marinated three days in digestive juices, and a worm shredded the leaves off the only comfort he'd had in a long time.

What if, rather than venting, "Where are You, God? Do You see? Do You care? And did I miss something? Are You trying to teach me something here?" frustrations, because life is screaming and time is flying off the handle and really big things are swallowing me whole and worms are stripping off what I depend on for comfort and, honestly, what's the point in wondering if God is trying to teach me something? He's God. There's always something I can learn from Him. Maybe I should wonder, rather, that I'm not more teachable.

Well, what if the huffy vent was "Ach, Lord! You are so frustratingly calm. So irritatingly at peace! You are the beginning and the end while I'm stuck somewhere in the belly of something big and scary but You, dag-nabbit, You are bigger!" That's the really good stuff.

I'm a mom; and sometimes we mom's just listen to our little "Jonahs." Then we say something really frustrating like, "Is it right for you to behave like this?"

Well, I blame it on God. He asked the question of His precious little Jonah first. And Jonah stomped off to sit and watch what would happen. Yeah, he was mad; but also curious.

What mom hasn't seen this before? A child fills with self righteousness because the enemy, the pest in pajamas on the other side of the room, is shown mercy after super bad behavior. There's a stomping out, a huffing and puffing, but chances are there's a peeking through the door hing just to see what happens now.

Jonah sat just east of Nineveh to see what would happen.

God comforted him. He arranged for a fast growing plant with large leaves to shade him. And Jonah was grateful. Until God arranged for the worm.

The worm ate the stalk for breakfast. Just mowed the plant down by dawn and the sun burned hornet hot, the wind scorched like a blowtorch and, yeah, Jonah was blurry mad. Couldn't see straight. "Just kill me now, Lord!"

"Is it right," God said, "for you to be angry because the plant died?"

"Yes!" Jonah retorted. "Angry enough to die!"

I wonder if the worm was still there chomping happily? I wonder if Jonah swept up a fistful of organic green shreds and held them out at arms length, "Just look at this, Lord!" And then if the Lord held His hand out at arms length toward Nineveh and said, "Just look at that, Jonah."

Thing is, seems Jonah knew God so well that even in his anger he couldn't help confess who God is. Maybe that's because it's true, "For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks" (Lk. 6:45).

May I know Him like that. If I'm going to be angry with God, or blame Him for whatever's happened or hasn't, may I know Him so well that I accuse Him correctly. May I accuse Him of nothing less than who He is?

I may, only if my heart is His, not mine. Only if my desires are blurry because my heart is a 20/20 focus trained on Him.

So Jonah didn't want what God wanted; and he was spitting mad when God fulfilled His hope for the Ninevites, even though he knew He would. He knew it, because he knew God. Seems to me that Jonah must have been filled with faith in God's character, because the truth of God's character just spewed out of Jonah's mouth and landed all over Him.

Jonah went kicking and screaming to Nineveh, and pouted and stomped about, but when all was said and done he had obtained a testimony by faith because he testified of what he knew was true about God.

I think about the champions of faith in Hebrews chapter eleven. They died in faith. I read this and think, to die faith full, less hopes, isn't hopeless. But to die hope full, less faith, is hopeless; because hope must rely on faith to keep going, and faith must be as faith is and must do as faith does.

I hear myself taking and I need God to help me figure out what I'm saying. "So, what about that?" I ask Him.

"Let's take yellow dog out back," He suggests.

Light on Web
We stand at patio edge and He sees me catch my breath the moment the sun explodes open on a single strand of spider silk.

"Did you see that?" He knows I did.

"Oh, yes." My answer is reverent. I remember a desperate morning years ago. "Show me what faith looks like, Lord!" I begged. He showed me. He revealed a single strand of silken faith by a stream of sun light.

I'm waiting for light to catch web again. "There!" Sun sprints the length. "Ha! Now look!" And when the likes of me delights to see a spider, it's a God thing. Yep.

She's not scary ugly, but amber gold because she's walking in the light. Sun light wraps her as a garment. She wears the light. She's transformed by the light. She ascends steady where light just ran ahead of her, as if to show her the way.

"This is what it looks like to base your actions on the reality of who I am," God whispers over my shoulder.

We watch this spider, clothed in the light which illuminates the web, and there's something just so simple and profound about this walk, this web, this light; and what it is to this spider. It's life to her. She's simply entrusting her life to a strand of web silk so fine that it's nearly invisible. But watch a spider walk on light and know that there's a strand of faith under her feet.

"That's how I want to walk." I mean that I want my life-walk to testify just as confidently to God's character as this spider testifies to the strength and presence of the web.

I want to be transformed by light all amber gold.

I want to act on what God has revealed about Himself rather than on what isn't yet seen.

I think about this, and how many times have I confused faith and hope?

How many times have I stepped out in hope rather than in faith?

How many times have I based all kinds of decisions on a mirage that may or may not be true, rather than on the always true evidence of what is?

Well, on this faithless but hopeful orb it's easy for me to get confused.

I find myself doing ridiculous things, like watering green bell pepper plants that are worm stripped, rather than gearing up to go worm hunting. What can I say? I'm an optimistic hopeful; confused wearer of contact lenses, reading glasses, and distance glasses who is learning to walk by faith and seeing, yeah, seeing something that would be invisible except for the light which runs and dances and plays all over it.

I'm adjusting my eyes to see the character of God dance as the light of sun on this narrow strand I'm sticking to.

Sometimes it's as messy as Jonah was. He did some ridiculous things, too. But for all the mess, may my worst complaint be that God is a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love! Jonah got some stuff backwards, but not this.

Seems to me, Jonah the prophet really got it. I think he got the point, once he settled down and let God have the last word.

I wonder, did he excuse himself after God put things in perspective? "Uh, I'll be back soon. I'm going to the corner Walmart here on the east side of Nineveh to pick up the glasses You ordered for my soul."

May I become so filled with the reality of God's character,

that no matter what else,

even if a whale swallows me whole and spits me out,

and life gets pretty organic,

may I be heard saying something like,

"Dag-nabbit! You are just so good!"

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

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