Generally Speaking: Do everyday parables ever end?

By MARILYN TINNIN COLUMNIST,

I don’t think everyday parables ever end.

I have had a desire—well actually, desire, is not the word—I have had an obsessive compulsive, out-of-control perceived need for a real tomato sandwich lately.

There is just nothing this side of the Pearly Gates to compare with an honest- to- goodness, grown- in-the-fresh air and dirt Mississippi tomato in the heat of summer.

I am no horticulturist.

My thumb will never be green.

Despite my Delta roots, my family never had a garden. I admit this fact is more akin to our genetic aversion to perspiration than the lack of opportunity.

The only round red thing I can personally attest to having grown in my lifetime is a bunion on my left foot. I am certain that it was every bit as close to a real tomato as the hothouse variety we see everywhere—and I do mean everywhere.

Even the down-home-Mississippi-looking battered, pick-up trucks on the side of Highway 49 brazenly hang out “Mississippi Tomatoes” signs to an innocent public who are not informed enough to recognize those mealy, tasteless imposters for what they are.

I recently rode from Jackson to Gulf Shores, passed numerous produce stands on the side of the road, and found not a one with REAL tomatoes—grown in the dirt and the sunshine.

I did a little research and discovered that greenhouse tomatoes are taking over because they are so much more adaptable to today’s marketplace. Real tomatoes have a few difficult-to-overcome characteristics.

They bruise easily. Real tomatoes also tend to hold their flavor and their firmness for a very short time after they are detached from the vine. The greenhouse variety can fool you, looking really good on the outside for a long while after being severed from their life-source.

The reality is, they look good, but they surely fail when it comes to a flavor that creates a desire for more and more. Jesus could not have picked a better illustration when He spoke of vines and branches in John 15. It seems hot house tomatoes obscure theology as well as taste!

The whole hunger and satisfaction thing is not so far from our spiritual quest for a God who is relevant, real, and involved.

The Bible compares Christians to salt and light. Both analogies are easy. When it comes to the end result, I would still wait in my grandmother’s hot kitchen beside her cast-iron stove for a piece of her sensational cornbread over any quick version I plucked from the cafeteria line at Piccadilly.

The appearance is all the same, but like Gladys Knight told us a few decades back, “Ain’t nothing like the real thing.” 

If we are authentic Christians, there should be a lingering awareness among those with whom we come in contact—an awareness that produces a hunger for more of it. Like my tomato sandwich—there’s a REAL difference between the imposter and the authentic version.

Hanging on to real in a world that looks for short cuts is tough. Staying attached to that vine when the world around us is moving fast and offering easier answers to the perplexities of daily living is hard work.

Being real costs. It costs time, a priceless commodity. Interesting, however, that, like the manna of the Israelites, we all get equal portions doled out to us every new day.

When I interviewed Dr. Roger Parrott, President of Belhaven College, several years ago, I was most impressed with the fact that, in his tremendous busy-ness, he has made an effort to avoid shortcuts.

He encourages his faculty members to be diligent in the small things—returning phone calls, answering e-mails—seemingly mundane and time-consuming and at first glance, not very attention getting at all.

But God honors those small things. There are times—probably more profound than we could ever imagine—when the small gesture is the most significant thing in someone else’s life.

The small thing never goes unnoticed when God is trying to make a point. Why? Because, like my obsession with the tomato…Real is not easily forgotten.

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Willie Lee Clay of Chicago died unexpectedly on Monday, August 19, 2019 at the age of 76 due to... READ MORE

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