I was in the grocery store the other day, tending to my own shopping spree, when my eyes fell on a bin of watermelons. I leaned over to thump one, then another and another, when the voice next to me said, “Sir, I’ve watched you thump those melons. Would you tell me what you’re listening for?” I began to give her a “thumping” demonstration, and as two additional people gathered around to hear, I said in my most authoritative voice, “When you thump a melon, you don’t want to hear a ‘thud’ because a hard sound means it’s too green. A ripe melon has a soft, mellow sound.” Then they began thumping for themselves, and finally bought a melon with the “right” sound. I couldn’t help offering a little prayer: “Lord, please help these melons to be ripe” (I’m glad I didn’t leave them my name).
This is a parable on the way we live our lives by faith. When life opens up for us, we don’t know exactly what we’re going to get. I have it on the authority of Forrest Gump, who quoted his mother about life being like a box of chocolate, not knowing what you’re going to get. Life is lived by faith. We could hardly get through a single day without exercising your faith that what you’re eating or taking from a bottle won’t kill you.
When we look at our religious faith, the same principle applies. I have faith that God is real and is the sole (soul) power behind this universe, but I don’t always know what will happen because of it. I believe that God is to be trusted and will give strength and comfort to those who need it most. This may come as a surprise or revelation. From the time a doctor “thumps” on our bottom at birth, until the time we exit life, there is a mystery and uncertainty that we never know what a day will bring. But having a vital faith in the ultimate goodness of God somehow helps me to face whatever happens.
There must be many people like the man who said to Horace Greeley one day, “I am a self-made man.” “Good,” replied Greeley, “that relieves God of a terrible responsibility.” I’ve learned that it is pointless to argue about religion. A religious faith is so personal and emotionally charged that few people change their mind through argument. A personal faith is not built on how many times we go to church (although that may help). Our faith is directly related to the way we treat each other, and how we use our God-given talents.
Linda Ellis has a poem “The Dash Poem”, which is about a man who spoke at a friend’s funeral and referred to the birth date and death date on tombstones. Here’s a few verses:
He noted that first came the date of her birth.
And spoke of the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.
For the dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth,
And now only those who loved her
Know what that dash was worth.
For it matters not how much we own
The cars, the house, the cash.
What matters most is how we live
And how we spend our dash.
Sometimes, people confuse faith with an insurance policy. If God is real, they say, then why do the innocent suffer, or why do tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, etc kill at random? If God is all-powerful, then why doesn’t God do something about the evil in our world? These are hard questions without easy answers, but is there anything that says any of us will escape harm, suffering, illness, disease or death? God simply doesn’t give insurance policies against pain. The “dash” between our birth date and death date represents a great mixture of pain and pleasure, joy and sadness, rewards and regrets.
I’ve heard the comment that evolution has taken God’s place. I see no conflict here. The truth of evolution is God’s truth. God, to me, is still in the assembly line of creation, and every truth of science traces the footsteps of God.
So, I will go on thumping “summer’s sacred fruit”, not knowing exactly what’s inside. And I will still have faith that the next one will be a little sweeter than the last one, just as I have faith that tomorrow will be a little better than today. Amen.