I know the journey seems so long.
You feel you’re walking on your own.
But there has never been a step
Where you’ve walked out all alone.
Troubled soul don’t lose your heart,
Cause joy and peace he brings.
And the beauty that’s in store,
Outweighs the hurt of life’s sting.
There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears.
There will be a day when the burdens of this place, will be no more,
We’ll see Jesus face to face.
But until that day, we’ll hold on to you always.
— Jeremy Camp, “There Will Be a Day”
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:6
It seems like I have always worked, from walking neighborhoods door-to-door after grade school selling donuts, to roller-skating as a Sonic carhop, to re-writing a cattle-breeder’s guide, to teaching school, to publishing newspapers, to two decades in management at AT&T, to the current borderline-starvation plan as a freelance writer. Work. It’s what we do as people.
God worked. He created the heavens and the earth, and in Genesis, it says His work was “very good.” Adam and Eve worked. They tended the garden before the Fall and then worked a bit harder on the outside afterward, so I guess we can’t blame “work” on “the fall,” Noah worked hard building the Ark. Moses worked like crazy and, more than once, probably thought “and this is the thanks I get?”
I’ve had a lot of jobs. I think one of my favorites will always be as the onion ring maker at the Sonic. I still have the recipe and I still make those rings at home, the old-fashioned Sonic way. I remember the backbreaking work of hauling the huge bags of onions out of the pantry, sorting them out, peeling away the outer inedible layers, slicing the onions into just the right widths and then separating each layer of the ring, dipping the rings in the coatings, stacking them in neat rows on the trays, placing the trays in the walk-in cooler . . . dozens of trays, thousands of rings. By the next morning, all would have hit the deep-fat fryer and then the waistlines of the frequent indulgers, and we’d start all over again.
I remember the big knife I would use to slice the onions and, more than once, my fingers, which would then burn from the onion juice. I remember the flour and milk and water and cracker meal that would build up on my hands and apron and coat the table and everything nearby, making an incredible mess. I remember a few burns from grease splashing as we’d toss the rings into the hot oil, turning mushy cold nothings into golden, brown, crunchy, addictive, near-perfect onion rings. I remember trying to scrub the onion smell out of my hands at night, knowing it would still be faint in the morning when I went to school.
But I remember most of all the tears. You can’t peel and separate the layers of hundreds of onions without crying a few tears in the process. I would try. I thought I might develop some immunity, but it never happened. The sting of the onion’s odor would bring me to tears every time.
My life is like one of those onions. It has a lot of layers. It has really smelled. It’s produced a lot of tears . . . and it’s really hard to clean up the incredible messes. I more often resemble the un-assembled and unattractive ingredients — the mushy cold nothings — and fall far short of the golden rings.
When an order of rings arrives at the window of the car, the diner doesn’t know or think or really care about the process that went on to create the finished product, beginning with peeling of that first layer of dead, dry, flaky onion skin. And I realize that when God completes His work in me that few will know of the painstaking process. Some will because they will have personally partaken of it. They will have experienced the tears that came with the peeling away of the layers.
I don’t feel too golden today. I feel a little bit like the little middle part of the onion that is too small to be an onion ring and gets chopped up and tossed on a burger instead, slimed with mustard and ketchup, buried beneath a pickle and a tomato, producing bad breath. No oohs and aahs. No one fights over the last bit of chopped onion.
I would rather be an ice cream sundae, but I turned out to be an onion. Doesn’t mean I can’t be sanctified. Our position on the menu doesn’t determine our significance in God’s plan.
Within our churches, we should look at each others’ lives day-to-day for evidence. Evidence of repentance. Evidence of true faith. Evidence of obedience. Evidence of eradication. Evidence of resistance. Evidence of a changed heart. Evidence of His presence in our lives. Evidence that we love God more than we love the world. Evidence that we truly love each other.
Evidence convicts . . . and evidence frees. Evidence can be uncovered one layer a time, as life is peeled away and we are revealed as we truly are. It’s a painful process, but there seems to be no other way to become than to first be pulled apart, at least for me.
Peel away the past. Peel away the excuses. Peel away the justifications. Peel away the anger. Peel away the blaming. Peel away the neediness. Peel away the self-absorbed reflection. Peel away the woefulness. Peel away the emptiness. Peel away the desires. Peel away the stubbornness. Peel away the hate . . . the fear . . . the self-loathing. Gee whiz . . . no wonder it takes so long to get down to the bare inner onion. A lot of layers before have to be tossed into the bag for processing.
We need to create an environment in our churches where people can fearlessly and in humility set aside pride and peel back their layers without condemnation, and find healing.
Maybe I’m just hungry and that’s lead me to all these tasty metaphors. Or maybe, just maybe, I still hope and pray that God will take this mushy mess and make something golden out of it, building new layers out of repentance and redemption and restoration and truth and hope and faith and love and self-control and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness. I don’t know . . . can an onion be a fruit?
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. — 2 Peter 1:3-4
God truly has provided everything we need. And many of the things we have given away through sinfulness, He may yet restore.
I am hungry . . .
I’ll always remember the tears.