PLYMOUTH – The longer I live the more I realize that the persons we have become are a composite of all the experiences of our lives. Some of those experiences or events are more impacting and pivotal than others while some are mere blips on the historical radar screens of our past.
It is usually in late evenings when I retire to my study that my mind puts on its hiking shoes and treks back over the landscape of my memories. Sometimes those shoes take me forward to the things that might be, but as more of my years are found behind me than ahead, I seem to walk around in those hills of previous days. The mental exercise does me good, and sometimes I stumble upon things that had been long forgotten or for some strange reason I am seeing for the first time.
Last night I had one of those mental hiking epiphanies. I came to realize that life is a lot like really good lasagna. It consists of layer after layer of spices, pasta, sauces, cheeses, meats, and who knows what else, baked together to form one unique dish. Each item, though unique in and of itself, has melded with all the others to form something special.
As I was inspecting a slice of my “lasagna life” I discovered a cheesy piece that I had not recalled since the event. At the time I was living in Marathon, Texas near the Big Bend National Park. I was serving there as the Associate Pastor (official title for flunky) of First Baptist Church under the watchful eye and tutelage of Pastor Walt Gallaway. He was a great preacher and a wonderful friend who taught me much about life and ministry.
There was not a great deal to do in that little village, so we learned to entertain ourselves with various hobbies. Walt found pleasure and relaxation in tilling and cultivating a small patch of land as his own personal garden. Now that was no small task seeing that the ground there was composed of 90% rock, and water was at a premium. We may have gotten six inches of rain a year, and as the old ranchers out there would say, “you should have seen the day that it came.”
He had worked for several weeks to get the ground prepared, and finally had a good crop of vegetables forcing their way through the hard surface. He had a really good stand of tomatoes and okra, and of course his favorite, Chiltepin Peppers. Most of the parishioners were quite amazed at his agrarian abilities.
He was faithful to care for them and to keep up a regimen of spraying and fertilization. He was very knowledgeable about his little farming operation because he had worked with his father at his cottonseed processing plant in South Texas which had been relatively successful. He was aware of what insecticides were best, how to use them, and had several bottles of them in his storage area.
One day his wife Gail, decided she would help him with his maintenance and she sprayed his entire garden with what she thought was a premixed concoction of his best bug killer. Her intentions were pure and her motives were sincere, but what she did not know was that the liquid mixture in the pump up sprayer was the very powerful defoliant 2-5-4-T, better known as Agent Orange. Within a matter of hours every green limb and leaf lay limp on the ground. It was not a pretty sight nor was the discussion that ensued.
Gail, like so many in this life, was very sincere and well meaning, but she was sincerely wrong. Many have and still proclaim loudly and fervently if a person is really sincere in the matters of religion and life then that is all that is required. “Sincerity” and “Tolerance” have become the politically correct and socially acceptable standards by which we are to judge a person's veracity.
My friends, ax murderers and rapists are sincere, but that does not make them right. There is only one standard by which we may judge something to be right or wrong, and His standard does not change with the winds of social and political variables. God’s Word is the standard by which we must live, not by present cultural norms or today’s acceptable practices.
In fact, there was another woman named Eve who was very sincere in her dealings with a certain Garden and look where that got us. She was sincerely wrong.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.