The Real and the Almost Real

The Real and the Almost Real April 21, 2008

Supermarkets are truly amazing places to shop. There is almost nothing of daily need that can’t be found there and occasionally, one can even find food.

On a recent, fact-finding shopping trip, I netted some of the following items:

· Fresh Fruit: blackberries, strawberries, oranges, and lemons.

· Fresh Bread: a whole grain, heavy and rich loaf.

· Fresh Cheese: a wedge of flavorful Jarlsberg.

· Fresh Vegetables: several ears of corn, still in the husk, a potato, some fresh basil

I also picked up:

· A can of potato chips, made from reconstituted potato flakes and fake cheese flavoring.

· A container of “breakfast orange drink” and “lemonade drink mix.”

· A box of corn flakes, made from cooked, mashed, extruded corn and preservatives.

· A package of strawberry sponge cakes, with no strawberries actually listed in the ingredients.

· An aerosol can of spray on cheese food.

Quite a bit of difference between these two lists, isn’t there? One provides freshness, richness of flavor and the reality that in a few days, if this food is not all consumed, it will all go bad. Mold will grow, bread will get stale, other signs of aging will occur. Either eat it fresh or toss it. It’s only good immediately. Frequent grocery shopping is necessary to feast on such things.

The items in the other list would probably still be consumable even after a nuclear blast. Full of preservatives, very little actual real food in there, they could provide calories in an emergency. But these things are far, far removed from the power and freshness of the things in the first list.

Our spiritual lives aren’t a whole lot different from these two shopping lists. We can have a vital, immediate relationship with God that must be renewed frequently with times of worship, learning, helping others with sacrificial service and seeing the mundane things of our lives turned into acts of holiness. Or, we can have a second-hand experience, with the real encounter with a living and often terrifying God replaced by the occasional thought about God, maybe even wandering into a church once in a while, but not much else. The rest of life is totally separate from any possibility of transformation into hope and holiness.

In both cases, we will still live. We can work, play, rest, and do necessary chores. But those who are vitally engaged with God will be able to do these things with the same burst of flavor that comes from eating an ear of corn picked moment before cooking. Those who go for the second hand experience can still get nutrients from a box of mashed, cooked, extruded, boxed and preserved corn flakes—but the deep joy and transformative nature has been lost.

Just something to think about—on your next trip to the grocery store and the next opportunity to truly encounter the living, loving and powerful God of the universe.

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