Thursday, January 5, 2017

the bittersweet road home

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”  But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”  So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”
-John 4:31-34

I sat in the car watching the scenery of the southwest speed by at 70 miles per hour last week. The long drive from Colorado to Texas was like water through a sieve and my thoughts kept coming back to this passage in John, when Jesus talked about food that no one can see.

And I wondered, How does a woman learn to eat God’s will?

Is it like the proverbial elephant, consumed one bite at a time? Is God’s will supposed to be a banquet, or simply a bite of bread and a sip of wine? How do we remember how low our place was before we knew the grace that brought us to God’s table, serving us dishes like salvation, restoration, and friendship with the eternal and the divine?

A few things have gone terribly wrong in our little world recently, and our days have tasted bitter and painful. Words have been spoken that we don't understand. We have discovered we are surrounded by circumstances we can’t seem to sort out. I have held out my hands to God and asked Him to show me my part in it all. Have I failed Him, where am I blinded by my brokenness, how can I help to put the pieces back together?

Then some child of mine loaded the dishwasher with all the sloppy spaghetti plates and coffee-ringed cups and poured regular old dish soap in that machine. I walked into the kitchen and saw great mounds of suds all over the wood floors.

Down on my knees with beach towels in hand, the truth bubbled up from my own heart and I answered my own deep questions about eating God’s will.

I want to taste the sweetness in all the bitter things.

I looked up the scripture in Proverbs 27 after the soapy floors had been dried up. “One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.”

I realized that to taste the sweetness in the bitter things, I must stay hungry. And maybe the hard things in life remind me of how hungry I really am. Hungry for God’s word, hungry for His presence, hungry to love a whole world full of people in need. In order to savor our great need for God in the depths of my soul I have to look the pain of humanity square in the face.

So today I am not staring at the mysteries of my circumstances, trying to sort out all that they mean. I am eating them. I am tasting the ways I have been disappointed by people I love and the ways I have failed them, too. I am chewing every bite of hope and sadness and tender vulnerability that is in my life. I savor the bitterness because somewhere in this meal there is nourishment for the journey ahead.

I have a God who makes all the sad things untrue. He turns the bitterest things into honey flowing from His hands. I’m not afraid of the darkness or of the sour meals life offers us.

Every road He leads us on ends at the sweetest home we’ve ever known, and today I am one step closer to heaven.

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