Friday, March 20, 2009

Loving Limas

My Uncle Bob grew up hating lima beans. No threats, rewards, or anything else offered to that little boy could induce him to swallow the dreaded green mush. This did not remain a life-long condition, however, thanks to the army. During boot camp training, he returned from an all-day post to find the dining room ready to close. There was only one thing left for the weary, starving soldier to eat: lima beans. Uncle Bob dutifully loaded up his plate; he figured he was hungry enough to force down anything. As he began to chow down, an amazing thing happened. Those lima beans were delicious! He had never tasted anything so good! Hunger had turned distain for lima beans into enjoyment. To this day, my Uncle Bob still has a passion for lima beans.

When faced with true hunger, what used to be passed over with distain suddenly became palatable.

We are a country full of people who have been gorging on luxury. In the past few decades, houses have been built to enormous proportions. Expensive items like fancy cars and oversized digital TVs are commonplace. We dine out at restaurants several times a week, seeking new exciting tastes and culinary presentations. Storage facilities have become commonplace as we rent space to hold the overflowing possessions which no longer fit into our homes. There is nothing inherently wrong with material possessions or privilege. Yet they do present a spiritual challenge: when we live with plenty, we tend to feel satiated. We can lose our hunger for the things that really matter.

"When the flesh feeds itself, the hunger of the spirit is forgotten," wrote Calvin Miller in The Song. We turn to God when we need. But in our wealthy society, those times for us have become few and far between.

We share our wealthy status with a church which was located in the prosperous first century town of Laodicea. Christ spoke to this church in Revelation 3. "You say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,' and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked." The Laodicians were rich, alright. They were rich in self-sufficiency and pride. Yet in their arrogance they had missed seeing the reality: they were living in spiritual poverty.

The city of Laodicea was a great commercial and financial center. It was famous for manufacturing a soft, glossy black wool, popular in local and export trade. Banking was a strong industry in the city. Laodicea was also boasted a well-known medical school which developed several medicines. One in particular was a salve used to cure eye diseases. Christ offered his church in Laodicea spiritual counterparts to these things. "Buy from me gold refined by the fire so that you may become [truly] rich, and white garments that you may [truly] clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may [truly] see."

They were poor, naked, and blind. Only what Christ offered could truly solve their need.

A few weeks ago I taught at a retreat that was held in the lap of luxury. The accommodations were beautiful, the food delicious. Everything was first class. The people of that particular church were largely accustomed to living a comfortable lifestyle. In light of this, I was fascinated to hear what part of my teaching resonated with the women in my audience that weekend. They expressed a need for truth and strength to help them through their struggles. They wanted to hear about waiting on God, and dealing with the storms of life that threatened their faith. It struck me as I heard them express their needs that God had been faithful to them. He did not let them grow complacent in their financial security. Instead, He was careful to continually introduce things into their lives that kept them on their knees.

We might be tempted to look at such things as problems. God looks at them as tools. We think they happen somehow in spite of the goodness of God. In reality, they happen because of the goodness of God. He wants us to rely on his necessary grace day by day and not grow complacent because we begin to believe we are self-sufficient.

We might pass over limas altogether should we never know what it is to hunger. What lays heavy on our hearts is often what keeps our feet planted in the reality of our insatiable need for God.

"The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him." Psalm 34:7, 8

1 comment:

Heather Nicole said...

I'm a little dyslexic. When I saw the title for the blog I got all excited: Loving Liams --I know all about that!
great post! even if there aren't any liams in it :)