The Lethargy of Toasted Coconut Ice Cream, Among Other Things
My friend Amanda and I spent the day in cute little harbor towns along Lake Michigan — a more accurate description would be that we ate and drank our way through these towns. We did a wine tasting at 11am at the Fenn Valley Winery (that’s right, I don’t feel guilty about it…it was free and delicious), went and stuffed our faces with extremely, straight-over-the-border, authentic Mexican cuisine at Su Casa, then wandered around another town, tasting olive oils and balsamic vinegars (my favorites: Meyer lemon olive oil, and chocolate balsamic vinegar, which I bought and plan to serve with strawberries and grilled peaches), then finished the day with toasted coconut ice cream at Kilwins.
As my mid-20s metabolism is still pumping away, it’s a miracle I’m so petite and not 800 pounds.
(But it was deeelicious.)
Anyway, between (and during) all this mass consumption of delicious morsels, we had some very good conversations. As both of us are struggling through a somewhat sticky patch in life and in faith, the question was raised — “Will I ever get to a point where I feel like I’m in a good spot with God?”
Maybe…but probably not for long.
That’s not meant to sound discouraging or depressing (which at first glance, it does). As I have begun to take my faith more seriously over the past several years, one thing has become very apparent to me. When I really put my soul and guts into something, when I really let go and hit the street running towards God, I ending up seeing a lot more of my face planted in the pavement than my feet pounding the miles away. Basically — following God consists of soldiering through a lot more valleys and not so many peaks.
My experience as a Christian has taught me that it is in those valleys that our hearts, our lives, our very beings, are tested and refined through fire. At times, I look from the cradle of these valleys and see nothing but mountains to be climbed, obstacles to be wrestled through, problems to solve. I don’t read my Bible enough, I don’t volunteer enough, I could give more and be more and do more. God’s grace becomes something I am anxiously chasing, but I’m running in place, because it’s something I already have. Sure, it’s great to reach the high points of my faith and my life, because it is at those points that I am gifted with perspective — perspective to see possibility, to see opportunity, to see beauty, and light. Then right when I get too confident, when I am playing to close to the edge, down down down, I tumble, back into a valley, and it’s time to start working to get out again.
Most people would say that sounds cruel, akin to Sisyphus in Greek mythology, who was cursed to push a rock up a mountain each day, just to have it tumble back down in his face. “Who is this God that you serve,” people might ask, “who forces you to break your back trying to please Him?” Doesn’t sound like much of a God, doesn’t it? Well, here is what I would say: if I served a God whose only aim was my comfort, my absolute security, who never wanted me to lift a finger, then yes, that would be immeasurably cruel.
But nowhere are we promised an easy life — in fact, in Hebrews 12, Paul writes: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
All words that indicate that it’s a fight, a bone-bare knuckled struggle, to keep running that race, to keep your feet moving one in front of another when all you want to do is give up. It’s hard for me when I feel like my goal is perfection, because all I will ever do is botch it up. I’m being set up to run a race that I cannot win. But when I read these words, I am comforted to know that God is not asking me to win. He’s not even asking me to finish. He’s simply asking me to try. To throw off my sin and all the garbage that I get tangled up in is really, really hard. But I would rather fight like hell against it than just give up. Giving up gets me nowhere. Fighting the current at least gets me somewhere, even if it’s only one step or two from where I was.
What do you all think? What is your peak to valley ratio in your faith and life?