Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Don’t Look Back (04/19/12)
TITLE: Yearning for Garlic...and Starbucks
By Gail Koop
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When my older brother was dying, I prayed to a god I did not know that Irving would know how much I loved him before he died. Because of his mental illness, we had been estranged for years. In his tormented mind, I was the person responsible for every bad thing in his life. Even though I knew he didn’t want to see me, I shakily walked through the door of his hospital room. When he began squeaking accusations beneath his oxygen mask, I said, “I love you, Irving.” He stopped abruptly. And magnified behind the lenses of his glasses, I witnessed the demons drown in his newly opened eyes. “I love you, too, Gail. I’ve always loved you. I’m sorry that I hurt you.” At that moment I purposed to find the God who had not only answered my prayer, but had given me more than I asked or hoped for.*
I started to attend a small church in my neighborhood. Around that time I’d been having difficulty writing, alcoholic debris fogging my mind. I’d given a fleeting thought to cutting back and the thought, of course, fled. But when the pastor preached about our bodies being temples of the Holy Spirit,* he got my attention. I couldn’t ignore this information. How could God live in an 80-proof temple?
So I started praying. Every day, on my knees. From the bottom of my heart, I asked God to help me stop drinking. And in a deliverance that would take a separate 750 words to describe, He did.
Every once in a while, though, my dreams involve alcohol. One in particular featured an old boyfriend who had been a connoisseur of fine food and wine. He held a shopping bag with a bottle of Grey Goose vodka and a jar of olives in it. The bottle of olives had the word “garlic” clearly written on it. In the dream I remembered how enticing those martinis were. But I knew I wouldn’t have one, because I also remembered how they made me feel afterward. Proverbs 23:31-32 says it perfectly: “Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.”
The garlic thing was so strange that I looked it up in my concordance, not really expecting to find it. But it is mentioned--exactly once. Out of 700,000+ words and 200,000+ pages. It’s in Numbers 11:5: “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost--also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” The Israelites were complaining. Then verse 6 reads, “But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” God had been supplying all their needs, sustaining them with bread straight from Heaven. Yet they got bored with it, looking back at all the food they’d had in Egypt. But conveniently forgetting the enslavement they ate it in.
And isn’t that what we do? Even though we should be “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:13), we take the Bread of Life that sustains us for granted, put on our rose-colored glasses and yearn for whatever our particular “garlic” may be.
The call to follow Jesus is expensive, requiring us to give up what we most treasure or desire. In Luke 9:62, Jesus responds to excuses people were giving to follow him. One person wanted to bury their father first.* Another wanted to say goodbye to their family first.* Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” That’s pretty scary. And to be honest, I have to say that I’m still working on this one. Because if Jesus were to return today, I’m afraid I might say, “Okay, Lord, but just a second - can I grab my Starbucks first?”
*Author’s paraphrase of Ephesians 3:20, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Luke 9:59, 61
All Scripture from NIV
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