The best part of grocery shopping with my mother was the coffee aisle. Millions of beans waited in a line of plastic dispensers, each with a distinct scent. As soon as the other shoppers had moved on, I’d drift from one end of the canisters to the other, nose up close to the spouts, taking in every smell along the way. (I was an odd child.) Mom would bag up her beans, take them home, and the air would smell like heaven a few minutes later.
“Sometimes it seems that our many words are more an expression of our doubt than our faith. It is as if we are not sure that God’s Spirit can touch the hearts of people: we have to help Him out with many words, convince others of His power. But it is precisely this wordy unbelief which quenches the fire.”
Poor Job. In the worst season of his life, he just needed some support. What did he get? Like Eliza Doolittle, the man was inundated with “Words, words, words!” Lots of talking. Little support.
Bible newbies might assume that the tale of Samson and Delilah is an edgy romance, ready to plug and play for Valentine’s Day. The actual story (Judges 16) reads much closer to a classical tragedy in which political intrigue runs rampant, the very flawed hero falls, all hope is lost, and then everybody dies. Prostitution. Assault. Disfigurement. Ethnic cleansing. Not exactly suitable for Sunday school felt boards. What assortment of senses and experiences might capture the flavor of this seedy couple? Here’s my take.
Was anyone else fooled by the pretty bowl of pears on their great-grandmother’s dining room table? You wander in and see that delicious fruit just begging to be savored. Not one to disappoint, you pluck the ripest from the bunch and have got it almost to your antsy taste buds when your parents alert you to the fact that what you are about to consume is, in fact, fake. Anyone?
Stupid pears. This is why I have trust issues.
We’ve taken the gospel—that dazzling centerpiece of the Christian faith—and created lookalikes. Sure, the coloring seems perfect, the texture identical to what’s real. But all it takes is one bite to realize we’ve been duped.
The story of Horatio Spafford reads much like that of Job in the Bible, compounding calamity upon calamity at what seems to the average onlooker a bizarre rate. A crushed career. His city ablaze. Financial ruin. Four daughters drowned at sea. A son—his namesake—taken by scarlet fever. And from the depths of this man on the proverbial ash heap, a string of words too heavy for even the hardiest of Pollyannas is penned: “It is well with my soul.”
When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.
“The coming of spring after a hard winter is almost too glorious for a soul to bear.”
Do you remember how Peter Pan crowed over his enemies after an epic battle? Pure, defiant, jubilant, completely lacking in self-consciousness: this is the heart of May. It buzzes happily into green-tipped ferns druzy with dew. It charges the air with joy, kicking off shoes and digging out the picnic blankets. These are the days of Huck Finn, all water and friendship and pirate kings. Of Christopher Robin and his thousand adventures. May we awaken to the childlike awe that can’t be helped when standing on the cusp of something grand.
As we conclude our jaunt of enhancing our practical gospel awareness, shocks of a deeper truth jolt us out of being a mere audience—we’re now participators, naming Christ and making Him known in the fabric of our culture.