“I love burned toast and marmalade,” Scrape the worst parts off; add a little flavor and what was ruined becomes a whole new treat to appreciate. Life can be like that with God. When times are hard or circumstances don’t turn out as we had hoped, with some patience and creativity new possibilities emerge.
In the moments when all we see is smoke and badly burned toast – the defiled remnant of what had once been fresh bread in our hungry hands, what then? The burned toast could be shattered dreams, the death of a loved one, career failure, dreams deflated and abandoned, injuries, faith on life support – so many reasons to question and wonder where the hope is, the way forward. How to regain the passion to believe after this?
My life has touched those places of heat and smoke and charcoal dreams. It’s only been an extra pair of hands bigger than mine that’s enabled a transformation from cremation to resurrected life. Plunging into valleys and soaring to an exhilarating high point with a stomach full of butterflies and other flying creatures, a fog of apprehension pierced with bursts of sunlight. Life’s a roller coaster! It’s a cliché’ of course but for many of the people I meet and listen to it’s not too far from their truth anyway.
Sometimes when one talks about God and believing in Him an image pops up of sitting in a random church listening, and listening, and listening….. “Where’s the connection to my life outside of this religious candy box?” you whisper.
Throughout the pages of the Bible God meets people and walks alongside them in every conceivable venue – almost never inside a building. They converse by the ocean, alongside rivers, on top of mountains, in homes, up trees, in caves, in boats, in chariots, in fire, in thunderstorms, in earthquakes, in deserts, in vineyards, in synagogues, in dreams, in visions, in books…. These encounters between God and people invariably were interruptions, surprises, and usually unexpected events that happened while they were on the way to somewhere else.
Jesus spent day after day with his disciples walking down roads, teaching, healing, and surprising those he met with a love and acceptance they never expected. He lived with an authority, power and a self-assurance that was quite remarkable considering the political circumstance into which he was born. His home country was occupied by the Roman superpower of the day, his family was very ordinary and ‘working class’, his opportunities for ‘self-fulfillment’, getting rich, or attending university were zero. Add to that the fact that he was destined for a significant spiritual ‘ministry’ and still had to wait thirty years before he was permitted to do anything publicly! How did he do it? After all he was fully human, the same as you and me….
Yet circumstances did not appear to rule his life. Instead he embraced his life and situation without flinching or complaining. He seemed to be aware of another reality and truth beyond the visible, and that was the place of truth from which he derived his meaning, purpose, and sustenance.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons why Jesus came to earth in the first place; to broaden our horizons and to help us see truth beyond the ‘natural’.
The trick or truth is not ever in the burned toast, but it lies within the heart and mind of the one who holds the scarred pieces. When I place my hands clutching blackened crumbs into the hands of the living God I should not be surprised to find diamonds and glittering emeralds emerging between my fingers.