So, I went to hear Phil Vischer, the creator of the “Veggie Tales” video series, speak at a college near my home. He recounted the story of his company’s rise to prominence in the Christian media industry and its subsequent decline and eventual bankruptcy. As a life lesson from his experiences, he advised his audience to allow their dreams to die; that God does not want to compete for their affection with their dreams. He used Scripture to make his point and seemed as passionate as a person could be when advising others to be dispassionate. For some reason, though, what he said didn’t sit right with me. Something seemed right about it and wrong at the same time- sort of like rotten tomatoes.
Tomatoes are great. I love them. Salsa is one of my many food addictions. However, have you ever noticed that tomatoes can subtly go bad? They’re sour and soft to begin with. So, it’s sometimes difficult to tell when they’ve just crossed the line. I can get pretty easily be fooled into taking a couple of bites of bad Pico de Gallo.
Once I realize that my Pico has turned, though, I simply throw it out and start slicing fresh tomatoes. I don’t suddenly decide that tomatoes can’t be trusted. I guess if I continued to eat bad Pico for a few days and became violently ill, then I might swear off of tomatoes for a while. It seems to me that the trick is to know when to give up on a batch and start with a new one.
Here’s the point. God wants us both to enjoy a relationship with him and to have a sense of purpose (a dream if you will). According to Ephesians 2:8-10, God’s grace has a two-fold benefit for its recipients – reconciliation with God and fulfillment of the, “good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We must, however, distinguish the dream he has for us from any particular manifestation of that dream. For instance, I’m passionate to make disciples for him. I’m working on a couple of initiatives aimed at doing just that. But I must continue to remind myself that the initiatives are not the dream, making disciples is. If I invest time, care, and energy in the efforts in which I am engaged and discover down the road that they are not making disciples, then I must throw them out and try something fresh. On the other hand, when I hold on to old methods, they go bad and can make me and others sick.
Once we’ve experienced the pain of rotten tomatoes, we may be tempted to swear off forever. We must not. God dreams of spreading a wonderful table and has invited undiscerning palates like ours to participate with him so that we might learn and the hungry might be fed.