I just had my first tomato sandwich of the summer last night, thanks to a coworker’s gardening skills. And it was so good. Now, for those of you who have never eaten a fresh tomato, straight from a backyard garden, you have no idea what I am talking about. You may think you have had a tomato sandwich, but you really have not. There is no comparison.
A tomato is a tomato, you say. I scoff.
Let me explain.
For those of us who grew up in the South, the month of July means many things, including Fourth of July picnics and fireworks, vacation time, family reunions, and a host of other summer activities. But nothing compares to seeing those tiny green tomatoes grow and grow, finally turning red enough to pick and eat. The anticipation of enjoying that first summer tomato is almost a ritual.
It begins with slices of that luscious red tomato and two pieces of fresh Wonder bread. Do not substitute with others brands; it is not the same. Then, add liberal amounts of real mayonnaise, salt, pepper – and a glass of sweet tea. (Now, I deviate from the Southern standard here. And I realize it is a sacrilege, but I hate sweet tea. Forgive me.)
If you really want to make things perfect, eat the sandwich outside under a shade tree.
Seriously, a real tomato sandwich is unbelievably delicious. And as I said before, nothing compares. Even a dinner at a five-star French restaurant would be amazing, but in comparison, even that famous French chef would agree. Nothing tastes better than the first ‘mater sandwich of the summer.
And to be honest, it is all I can bring myself to do to even eat tomatoes the rest of the year. It is downright disheartening. I cannot count how many times during the year I remove disgusting, tasteless tomatoes from my sandwiches and salads.
Think about it. We live in the most technically advanced time in history, and yet, nine months out of the year, we cannot produce a tomato that tastes like anything more than a piece of cardboard.
Hydroponics, organic greenhouses, or aquaponics, it makes no difference. Those “fake” tomatoes look great. They are round, red, glossy, and shiny. In fact, they even look better than the gnarly, imperfect tomatoes grown in my grandpa’s backyard. The problem is that their looks are deceiving because they have little taste compared to those Big Boys my Papa grew.
I guarantee that a blind taste test of a real, homegrown tomato sandwich versus the best available hothouse sample would always end with a homegrown winner. Always.
And if you think about it, most things in life follow that same path. Humans can never manufacture anything that comes close to God’s creations. We should be able to recognize that truth in every aspect of life, but we don’t. We try to manufacture our own religion. We set ourselves up as the center of our universe. We create our own standards and most of the time, we deny all absolutes. Instead, we prefer to govern our lives through feelings and emotions.
On top of that, we spend more time in pursuit of our own goals, dreams, and ambitions, rather than seeking the priorities God outlined in His word. In essence, we seek truth in lies and deceit.
We long for gratification in temporal things, things that will never last. We spend our time constantly striving for the approval of man when the approval of God should be our measuring stick. We crave worth from the unworthy.
Saddest of all, we try and build relationships with so many people in our lives, but we fail to seek passionately the only One who will ever truly satisfy our souls. The truth is, our longing for love is a futile search among those who have never known His love. For Jesus alone is love, and we are truly lost and alone without Him.
And here is the kicker: God loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to seek and save that which was lost and separated from Him. He longs to have a true relationship with us, each of us.
Even now. He is offering us all, everything we are searching for, everything we will ever need or desire, in exchange for our emptiness and void. His perfection in exchange for our sinfulness. His real love for our false, fallible longings. His beauty for our ashes.
I know, I know. It is so simplistic and ridiculous. You argue that there is no God; we Christians are living a delusional lie. I understand your reluctance. I really do.
But for those of us who have had a real encounter with the Savior, we recognize the difference between what the world offers and what He has for us.
See, we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good; we have taken refuge in Him just as the old Psalm (34:8) described. And now that we have tasted His goodness and His loving kindness, we will never be the same. We know the real joy of His salvation, the true hope found in Him alone, and we cannot go back to living without Him.
Quite frankly, life with Jesus compared to life without Him is as different as light versus day, empty versus full, or a homegrown tomato sandwich versus … well, you get the picture.