Sunday, September 16, 2012

Endless Apple Pie (a musing by an orthodox rebel)

" Your presence is fulness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore." Ps. 16:11

God is a hard thing to imagine for anyone at any age. He is either too difficult and "fuzzy" sounding to understand, or He sounds like an incredibly boring person (with His hard rules and His home of harps and tiny wings and clouds as far as your eyes care to see). He seems to be a truly "grown-up" thing: dull and uninteresting and unimportant. Yet we are all supposed to want to know Him because we're told that He is "good": not just good for us (like medicine) but good in Himself (like a Christmas gift). How we ever got to the point where anything good can be both "boring" and "hard to imagine" is anybody's guess, but we all know that it isn't true. If we know anything about good things, we know that they are neither boring nor hard to imagine.

Of course, good things are hard to come by. Good days dissolve with every passing second, like clouds in a hot sky. Good friends and people come and go with the easy unpredictability of characters in our favorite novels. And good food cannot help but be eaten. It is a shame that good things seem so fragile, like they're made of glass, or better yet, snow. Without the right temperature, snow fades slowly and softly, without a word. It is lovely yet perishable, and too often drains right through our fingers.

"Lovely yet perishable" is probably the best definition for what we call "good things," especially good food. Whether it's hot or cold, a colorful collection of either steamed vegetables or spherical ice cream scoops, the whole edible edifice is just waiting for erasure within our mouths and bellies. Someone once said (perhaps absentmindedly) that you "can't have your cake and eat it too." It is a true statement, but it also misses the greater problem, which is that we can only eat the cake that we have. To partake of its goodness (warm from the oven or cold from the fridge, chocolate or carrot or red velvet supreme) is to lose it forever. Pleasing to the eye, delicious in the mouth, but then no more.

Can you imagine, however, if that "no more" was itself no more? It is perhaps a little difficult to do, but think about it if you can. You sit down to a delicious dinner (try and think of your favorite), your stomach not uncomfortably empty but just empty enough to enjoy a full meal. Maybe the food smells warm and thick (like a good potato casserole) or cool and tangy (like a pasta salad), or maybe it is a symphony of smells touching your nostrils in concert: red-centered meats sizzling, fresh baked rolls with browned and buttered hides, and crunchy asparagus stalks looking like tiny tree buds.

Whatever it is that you see or smell, what if you knew that it would never end? What if you knew that the food would never fade, that your stomach would always be just right to receive it, and that you would never grow weary of eating it (nor would you suffer certain "consequences" for overeating)? In short, what if the feast was forever? It is reasonable to assume that you would be more than just happy, for the good thing would be lovely and still precious but no longer perishable. You could have and enjoy it always: never-ending steaks and everlasting green beans and endless apple pie.

If you could (even for a moment) imagine such a thing, then you would understand God a little better. He is the one where all good things last without any fear of fading away. He is where the feast is forever. Old churchmen (living over a thousand years ago) often said that heaven is where "the good" dwells and never ends, and even older churchmen than they spoke of God throwing a "marriage supper" at the end of time when heaven and earth have come together at last. To those incredibly old men and women, God was not about harps and humdrums but rather all good things, filled to the top and imperishable. In Him the good days will never dissolve, nor good friends be separated by time or place. In Him the snow never melts, nor the springtime flowers fail to bloom in their collage of colors. In Him the joys are unending, and you can, finally and wonderfully, have your cake and eat it too.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012