Friday, August 9, 2013

The Fear of God in a Peach

Sunshine warming the floor and steam coming off the canner in billows, hair frizzed in the humid heat until it made to fly right out the window, sticky-sweet hands and the rich ripe perfume of peaches.  All of it so very sundry.

There is a danger in words...this strange power to almost thoughtlessly make poetic what is plain or trivialize what is transcendent.   The composer can do this too...write epic music without a real epic.  But there is more to the art of creativity than this, because there are real epics and real poems.  Sorting bright round peaches into jars can sort your brain.  They call tasks like these mindless...but I found that here, at least as much as at any other time, there is no room for mindlessness.  The Spirit has a way of using menial tasks that get your hands dirty to compel you to face the greater issues of life.  And when He presses we can face them without fear like Sarah or bend to the temptations of self-imposed martyrdom like Eve.  The daughters of men are especially susceptible to the latter temptation, I believe, so I had the great audacity to wish for a good conclusion on the matter that pressed while I steamed in the kitchen along with rosy golden fruit.  

What is the source of meaning and joy in a hot messy kitchen?  I knew that the knowledge of God is all the difference.  Taking thoughts captive grows into a habit of the mind and heart, a constant counterpoint to all the little melodies and great harmonies in life.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, His word says.  So ... the fear of the Lord is the hunger to know Him in everything, the insatiable desire to have the mind of Christ.  There is a greater power in this than in glorifying the trivial merely because poetry and music are tools that enable you to do it.  To some it is given to know the fear of the Lord among kings, to others, to know it among blades of grass.  Trivial, in fact, are all the issues of men, kings and grass alike are but small things.  Yet, wonder of wonders, neither are small issues in light of the kingdom of God.

Some take this merely as comfort.  But I was looking for more than comfort.  I didn't really need comfort, after all.  Comfort is the knowledge that one is spared the curse of death through the power of Christ's gospel.  Purpose is the working of that gospel into ever fiber of one's being like kneading leaven in a lump of dough.  There it was again, the mundane kneading of bread dough threads it's humble fibers through the master plan of the cosmos.  How does He do that?  How do the things that are small become great?  The knowledge of God again.  All at once I was overwhelmed by a sense of privilege...and shame.  What am I, mere dust of the earth, that He should stoop to give me pleasure in the greatness of the little threads of his plan.  Who am I to revel in the glory of a peach?

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah must have been wondering at it too, when his heart overflowed with the poetry of God's faithfulness. The comfort of salvation we love...but there is the wonder too..."let not your hands grow weak..."? He knows our weakness...our tendency to fear everything but Him, to forget the glory behind the song.
Is the Lord God in your midst...while you can peaches?  Yes!  Mighty to save calloused hearts as well as hands and give joy to long days on your feet and pour quiet into your hurried tasks and exultation into your solitary work.  The unseen is beautiful in its own right...because it is seen by Him. Is this about as cliche as it gets?  Here my brain was sorting backwards.  I don't suppose most who use that "cliche" even know what it means.  The fact is, I don't presume to suppose that anything needs to be seen apart from the fact that He sees it.

There are serendipities every day in our lives that God makes to touch the eternal right before our eyes.  And here I was, a very small thing that He should notice.  He stoops to give us joy in the flavor of a ripe peach.  He bends His greatness low to carry my heart out the window on the sound of a violin.  Of course I knew David was right to wonder that the Creator of the Universe is mindful of us, but everyday wonders are used by the Spirit to teach us more and more how much of a wonder it is.

I was a little girl the first time I saw the Teton Mountains.  We were driving towards them across the vast western plains when Daddy pointed out their distant peaks and the car was filled with little gasps of excitement: "Mountains!"  There was wonder then...true wonder.  But I felt like I was growing up just watching those mountains get closer.  I had never seen anything that big before.  They became higher and more terribly beautiful with every mile, until, when we finally started climbing the foothills, I could no longer see the tops.  My little-girl gasp at the first glance was forgotten in absolute awe.  The truth is, I hadn't even known what awe was when I first looked.

I was climbing those mountains of awe over the peach peelings those few short days ago.  At first I thought to myself that you couldn't expect to go can peaches and have an epiphany every day.  That would be another cliche, right?  But again I wondered, why not?  Every day, the Spirit of the Living God is living in us.  And while we walk about and classify every act as "normal" or mundane, He is working His perfect and awesome will.

So...Its not every day I climb spiritual mountains over the canner, but as the Lord enables, I will.  And all the while, I'll turn, again and again, in His merciful kindness and at His continual prompting to live in the light of the kingdom...where even a peach is epic.  This is the fear of God all the day long...the perpetual awareness of His presence.  The ever-turning of our hearts to Him...the seeking of His face continually.  A few will know what I mean when I say that "I am just stating the facts."  The more whimsical and intangible one's thoughts are, the more matter of fact one needs to be, as I am daily proving.  So here I have perhaps even trivialized the matter with my words... so that I will not forget and complain.
"...but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”
Jeremiah 9:24