We're nearing the end of Secret Sisters at church. It's kind of like secret Santa, but just for the women and just because. We get the name of one of our sisters, and we spend two months gifting her in secret before the final reveal party where we all get to laugh and just fellowship and be together.
I'm pretty sure the lady who's got my name this time is someone who already loved me. Haha. She's blowing me out of the water.
This past Sunday, I found a plain brown bag with my name on it on the gift table. Inside, a Lemon Pound Cake candle and a bag of Lemon Drops.
I was...shall we say....excited. I loooove lemon stuff. And with allergies in full swing, I was looking forward to some hard candies to soothe my congested everything and even stoked about the initial sour bite of a lemon drop.
I'm sorry. That's Lemonheads. Until Sunday, I didn't know the difference. I guess I had...never? had a lemon drop?
Upon the first taste, I declared the sugary treat 'refreshingly mild' and spent the night in wonder of how that could happen.
I think we're not trained for mild any more. Everything in the grocery store comes in new "Bold" flavor. There are some products you can only buy in "hot," "hotter" or "fire." Cheetos, a classic, has gone Flamin' Hot. They also have one with a kick of jalapeno. Gummy chewy fruit snacks boast a "new" boldness of fruit flavor. When we cook in our homes, we up the ratio of spices to food for an extra wow factor. We are inundated with these things that overwhelm our palates and taught to believe that anything else is bland.
It is true beyond food, as well. We're thirsty for adventure. For thrill-seeking. For setting a new standard, reaching a new mark, living a wild dream. Having a story to tell with as much umph as is possible. Wanting our lives to sound exciting, overwhelmingly. To have people taste just a piece of our lives and say "Wow! That is the life-iest life I have ever seen!" in the same way we take a fire-roasted tomato cracker and pass it to a friend and say, "Isn't that just an incredible flavor? That's fantastic!"
While that is thrilling and such, I suppose, we're missing out on the simple pleasures because they don't seem grand enough for us any more. The most beautiful butterfly has been hanging around the backyard in the past few weeks. No, it hasn't tried to bite me and give me superpowers. It hasn't attacked me. It hasn't fallen victim to some awkward situation or made me laugh or made me cry. It didn't carry me away on its wings to see the world in a new way. It's simply beautiful; but we live in a world that would in someway need us to justify the beauty of the butterfly to say it matters. The world needs a fantasy, not a simple beauty.
In the last week or so, I took my new bike (finally!) out for a short trip to the bank. A leisurely ride on a simple day, breeze in my hair, relearning the balance of riding a bike. No, I'm not training for anything. My car is in perfect working order. It's just the joy of it; but we live in a world that wants to know why I would ride a bike when I could just as easily hop in the car. The world needs a reason, not simple joy.
The simple stuff exists beyond reasons and justifications. It exists beyond culture and this ever-narrowing box we paint ourselves into. The simple stuff allows us simple answers and simple pleasures. It frees us from having to define everything; we can just simply live.
There's an energy behind the extreme. Something that defies words. You try the newest super-sour, extra-bold flavor, face-puckering Lemonhead and someone asks you how it is, and you say, "Man! It's awesome. It's like if you took like a ..... Man, you just have to try it! It's awesome!" And you go on and on with your sort-of descriptions of how it kind of is, but you can't even find the right words for it because you're overwhelmed by its extreme nature and you end up getting someone else to try it, then laughing when their face puckers in on itself. But you both kind of liked it and now you share something.
But there's a quiet energy behind the simple, too. Something that also defies words. You taste a lemon drop when you've expected the extreme and find it understated. Simple. Pleasing. And someone asks you how it is, and you say, "It is nice. Just lovely." And it's a quiet reaction and in a quiet invitation, you offer them one, too. Just by holding out your hand. And they take it and find that it's "nice." And that's ok. It's not a big story to tell (though, did I just make it one?) but it's a joy. It's a pleasure. It's simple.
You know, I think the same can be said for our relationship with God a lot of times, too. We need to be able to live in the simple without falling victim to the world's need for justification or reason or even fantasy. We've all met them - the on-fire all-the-time for Jesus types who bound into a room with a loud presence and declare that God is awesome for no particular reason at all. (He is, but that's beside the point.) But man, that attitude can be a turn-off. The simple pleasure of living in Him, of living as His, of knowing Him and walking with Him and being in Him...it quiets us and we can extend a simpler invitation just by simply living. It doesn't have to be a profound story we tell. Just something quiet about us, some inner reality, some simple joy that we share with one another that draws us into both saying, "Yeah. That's really nice." Even though it's more than that. Because it's beyond words.
And God can be extreme when He needs to be. But for the most part, He's something quieter. He's something simpler.
His invitation to quiet, to stillness, to simple joy and simple peace and simple pleasure is....well, it's refreshingly mild. I like that about Him.
What would happen if you dialed back your quest for the extreme and partook in something simple, without justifying it? Without trying to work it into the narrative of your culture? With simply just having it and enjoying it?