I love cucumbers. I like them on sandwiches, salads, dipped in Ranch, dipped in hummus, and made into little relishes. I even like them in my water. Mmmm. I love me some cucumbers! They are so refreshing. It is mind boggling to me to think that only a few years ago, I could not stand the vegetable. Friends would grow cucumbers and cut them into slices, mix with a few ingredients and eat them while I would gag. I thought the only reason God invented such an ugly looking and foul tasting thing would be to make it into a pickle. I’ve had no problem ever with a good pickle. Somewhere along the way, my palette for cucumbers shifted. I don’t understand it, but somehow what used to be repulsive is now always in my refrigerator. The cucumber has become a staple.
I do know that it didn’t happen without lots of trying. As much as I hated cucumbers, I still held on to the hope that I would one day love them as much as all those people who make their beloved home-grown cucumber salad. I would try them, gag, and wait till next summer for another go at it. Eventually, there was a miraculous tasting when that cucumber tastebud flipped a switch and I didn’t immediately turn away. I could finally appreciate the backyard cucumber connoisseur, eventually becoming one myself.
In the same way I had an initial aversion to cucumbers, my girls hate math. If they could get through life without ever having to work another math problem, they would be just fine with that. We have tried math games, math worksheets, math mazes, and math on the computer–math anything and everything, and I am becoming more and more convinced that they just don’t like math. I am certain, that just like I had a magical moment when my tastebuds converted from hating cucumbers to not getting enough of them, they too will have a lightbulb moment when math is not so intimidating. They may never love it, but I am holding on to the hope that they will one day appreciate it. We have been focusing on drilling those basic math facts. 2+2=4, etc. Once they have some ground work that’s easy and effortless to recall, they will be more equipped to deal with larger and more complex problems, and maybe relax a little when it comes to their math folders.
Through this year of Family Rehab, I think God plans on doing quite a bit of work on our family’s palette and drilling some basic facts into our hearts. Our plan is to try new foods and discover a love for math, but with every aching minute spent doing math drills or trying a new recipe, I think God’s plan is to stretch us even further in our trust of Him. Our plan is to invest in each other’s hearts and spend time with our kids, but I think with every minute spent together, God is teaching us even more how to invest in deeper relationship with Him. I am sure there are many lessons to come over the next year–too many for me to know what they are today. The art of the adventure is discovering them along the way and finding that our final destination is a place where we are in a much more trusting relationship with Him.
There are examples in scripture that prove undoubtedly that God loves us, gives us daily what we need, and faithfully pursues us, no matter our performance. Sometimes it seems as though that isn’t that good enough for us. Why is it so hard to rest there–in all His goodness? Why do we see the one-time all-covering salvation Jesus offers, treat it as though it weren’t enough, taint it by assuming that our performance makes a difference, and end up equating His love with blessings, both material and circumstantial? Why do we find it so hard to trust Him and His ways? I fall victim to living by this messed-up math equation all the time: God’s favor=material blessing or things just going my way…or the relative equation: not having my life together=a lack of things going my way. Sometimes it seems to be a mathematical function on which I base my understanding of life much like I do 2+2=4. I rarely consider the backwards-gospel-math-facts underneath the lack-of-trust-frustration that I am living out daily. But unlike 2+2=4, that underlying equation is not good arithmetic. It’s fuzzy math. It is as if I am balancing my check book based on the incorrect belief that 2+2=48,000. The consequences and stress that could ensue from a bad basic math fact like that could be devastating. I need to go back to the elementary equations that are the building blocks to living in a trust-centered relationship with God. I need to compare them and consider that the gospel function I am “functioning” out of no longer resembles the truth as revealed in the Bible.
In fact, that kind of math (God’s love=blessings, as I define them) just can’t be supported with other equations that my convictions based on Jesus teach me. Here’s some math based on what the Bible says about God’s love and how He communicates that love to me:
(1 John 4:16):
God in me=love in me
God in me + love in me=love perfected
perfect love=no fear( of punishment)
If God=love, then God does not=fear-filled punishment
(Luke 12:15 and 23):
Life does not=an abundance of possessions
Life>food (even cucumbers) and clothing (any material provision, really)
what I treasure=what I worship with my heart
Jesus’ coming=abundant life for me
(1 Peter 3:18) and
Jesus’ death + resurrection = my righteousness
love=while we still sinners Christ died for us
(2 Timothy 2:13):
me + faithlessness=His remaining faithfulness
Just like drilling some basic 2+2=4 equations into our heads can give us a firm foundation for learning future algebra and higher level math, knowing the simple facts about who God is can ground our often fleeting and untrusting hearts. Living out of the assumption that God’s love and favor of me rests in my performance is counter to the basic math principles of the Gospel. It’s backwards and fuzzy and just plain wrong, like 2+2=48,000. If God is love and he has loved us with a perfect love, that casts out fear, we don’t need to be scared of punishment for our sins. God just doesn’t work that way. Our unrighteousness has been replaced with Christ’s righteousness. God won’t withhold his love or his blessing because we have been unfaithful or faithless, because the truth tells us that He remains faithful. We don’t need to worry about things of this world because life is more than possessions, and because we have died with Christ, He lives in us and He is the treasure of our hearts. We become fully and completely satisfied in Him. Jesus said himself that He came so that I could have life abundantly. I have no reason to doubt that! When we worry about what’s coming and when it will arrive, we miss out on what we already know about Him, what we already have in Him, and what He is currently working together for our good.
“For those who love God all things work together for good”(Romans 8:28). We have to trust that whatever He has planned and whatever the circumstantial evidence seems to be around us, that He has something working for our good. He wants good for us. He wants to bless us. Sometimes, we are just too busy focusing on our material things or our performance, that we miss all that He has and is currently doing. Where our treasure is, there is our heart. When He is enough, our hearts are not worshiping what we want, but rather are worshipping Him. Building our life around this Gospel arithmetic, around these simple truths of who God really is and what He has done for us, redefines who we are and what our expectations are of this life. I no longer have to worry about my lack of perfection and how God views me. I don’t have to use my fingers to perform simple addition and subtraction while seeing what I have and don’t have anymore. I am not balancing a spiritual check book of good deeds where the numbers don’t add up and the account is never balanced. I know, based on drilled math facts that aren’t fuzzy, that He loves me no matter what, and that He has good for me. Laying that mathematical groundwork will prepare me for the larger, more complex problems in life.
Today at snack we were feeding Judah a banana. Ava commented on how he would not even look at the banana or our hands, but just open his mouth while looking across the table at whoever was talking to him. He wasn’t looking to see what the food was or worrying that it wasn’t going to be there, or get there fast enough. He was just trusting. So far, we’ve given him no reason to lack trust in us. So he blindly trusts that what we are giving him is good, and that it will be there when he opens his mouth.
Maybe we need to trust in God’s blessings more like Judah. God has given us no reason to distrust Him. We can open ourselves freely, with vulnerability and complete trust to receive whatever it is that He has for us. We don’t need to already have in mind what that blessing will look or taste like. We don’t have to set a timetable. He might give us something sweet, something salty, or something brand new. We are called to just trust Him. In the process we might even find ourselves in a place where what once seemed repulsive, might actually end up to be a refreshing blessing. And we just trust that while whatever he gives us might be like a cucumber that we’ve never imagined enjoying, that one day He will work it together into a yummy cucumber salad.