A parable is literally something “cast alongside” a truth in order to illustrate that truth. The website Got Questions labels the 35+ parables that Jesus told as “inspired comparisons”and then adds that a common description of a parable is: “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning”-a definition from my childhood. Jesus often ended a parable by saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” This was his call to listen to the parables, not just as one would listen to an ordinary story, but as one who is seeking the truth of God. I hope that my little parables inspire that intent in you. (This post was first published in 2014).
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Gardeners know that root vegetables thrive in cold weather. However, did you know that root vegetables, like carrots, have to endure the stress of several intense freezes to create the best taste. In fact, Chef Dan Barber reports, the carrot converts its starches to sugars during those hard freezes because it doesn’t want ice crystallization which would cause the death of the carrot. So in the end when we bite into the carrot harvested in cold weather, we taste its sweetness, “but what the plant is telling [us] is that it [didn’t] want to die.”
Barber’s point in his interview on On Being was that we need to grow food where it ecologically is best suited if we want it to taste its very best. My point in sharing this is that once again the natural world gives us a parable for our spiritual journey.
We try to avoid pain and suffering (emotional as well as physical) at all costs. But in the same way that an unstressed carrot doesn’t taste the way a carrot at its best should taste, a person who plays life so safe that he or she avoids all risk of pain can be pretty bland. Scripture is full of stories of men and women who risked and suffered and became heroic figures because of it, Jesus being the best example.
The saving grace of our hurts and wounds is that God makes use of those intense events in us in the same way the “lowly” carrot does. If we are willing to allow God to work in our suffering, our woundedness can be converted into sweetness and winsomeness of character. Our healing will engage others in ways that could never happen if we were not first wounded.
If we don’t allow God to work in our suffering, we will become as cold as ice and die spiritually and emotionally and sometimes even physically. Meanness and stinginess will be what we display. And God, the one who suffered for us, will not be glorified.
2020 Update: Leaning into suffering is a discipline I am SO glad I began to understand years ago. I am learning to just accept (even welcome) the bouts of grief over the October death of my husband that overtake me and hope to reap the benefits of “sweetness and winsomeness of character” as time passes.