Archive for January 12th, 2010

Roger EbertAs a result of thyroid cancer and the issues surrounding it, film critic Roger Ebert can no longer speak, eat, or drink.  In a recent blog post, he addressed the latter two issues.  Although Ebert’s artistic bent causes the post to meander a bit — like I’ve got any room to comment on lack of brevity — his bottom line is that he doesn’t miss food that much, but misses the dining experience.

But there is a segment of the post that jumped out at me.  I have to quote it at length so you can see where this is coming from:

I dreamed. I was reading Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree, and there’s a passage where the hero, lazing on his river boat on a hot summer day, pulls up a string from the water with a bottle of orange soda attached to it and drinks. I tasted that pop so clearly I can taste it today. Later he’s served a beer in a frosted mug. I don’t drink beer, but the frosted mug evoked for me a long-buried memory of my father and I driving in his old Plymouth to the A&W Root Beer stand (gravel driveways, carhop service, window trays) and his voice saying “…and a five-cent beer for the boy.” The smoke from his Lucky Strike in the car. The heavy summer heat.

For nights I would wake up already focused on that small but heavy glass mug with the ice sliding from it, and the first sip of root beer. I took that sip over and over. The ice slid down across my fingers again and again. But never again.

One day in the hospital my brother-in-law Johnny Hammel and his wife Eunice came to visit. They are two of my favorite people. They’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, and know I’m not. I mention that because they interpreted my story in terms of their faith. I described my fantasies about root beer. I could smell it, taste it, feel it. I desired it. I said I’d remembered so clearly that day with my father for the first time in 60 years.

“You never thought about it before?” Johnny asked.

“Not once.”

“Could be, when the Lord took away your drinking, he gave you back that memory.”

Whether my higher power was the Lord or Cormac McCarthy, those were the words I needed to hear. And from that time I began to replace what I had lost with what I remembered. If I think I want an orange soda right now, it is after all only a desire. People have those all the time. For that matter, when I had the chance, when was the last time I held one of those tall Nehi glass bottles? I doubt I ever had one from a can.

I understand Ebert’s point about missing the dining experience (he goes into that issue later in the post), but this passage is the part that hit me hard.  Johnny posited the theory that when God took away one thing, He gave something else.

This reminds me of Job 1:21 :

The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

This is often interpreted as saying that God’s sovereignty means that He can do whatever He darn well pleases and that we ought to bless His name, regardless of how we see the circumstances. And while this is true, there also seems to be another component as well, perhaps not to be derived specifically from this verse, but in what we learn of God’s nature throughout Scripture.

Jesus, in and of Himself, is sufficient for our every need.  And we ought to always strive to recognize that.  When God takes something from us (for our own good, or to test us, or both), that hole in our lives somehow always winds up being just the right size and shape for Jesus to fill.  But He is also gracious and recognizes our limitations as finite beings. And so, He often gives us more tangible things to fill that void.  For example, when it comes in the form of another person, a friend of mine refers to that person as “Jesus with skin on”.  But regardless of the nature of the gift, our challenge is always to worship the Creator, not the creature who is standing in for (and provided by) the Creator.

It also puts me in mind of Psalm 37:4 :

Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.

The grab-it-and-blab-it crowd would claim that this verse indicates situations in which God provides for us things that our hearts desire.  That is sometimes an accurate interpretation of the verse. But, it seems that it is not so much an issue of God providing the things that our hearts desire, as it is that He provides the desires themselves.  In other words, the more we delight ourselves in the Lord, the more He will change our desires to align with His will.  And then, in something of a circular manner, God often does provide the things that our hearts desire, because our hearts desire His will.

Now if I can just convince God that His will includes that red Lamborghini over there ….

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