August 28, 2013Every time my family goes to the farmer's market, my wife checks out the vegetables while I make a beeline for the bread guy. The bread guy sells other stuff, but in my head he's the bread guy because, once you see the 100 loaves of sweet awesomeness on his table, you forget about everything else.
From pumpkin bread to pound cake, this guy has it all. He sells mini loaves of carrot cake that look like they have enough icing to choke a horse. I'm working up to that one.
Usually, I just go for the lemon blueberry loaf. I figure anything with blueberries must be healthy, right? Last week, when I was buying my lemon loaf, the bread guy told me a story I have to share.
A few weeks ago, a customer approached his booth, pointed to one of the carrot cakes and asked him to serve it up. These brick-sized beauties are typically the kind of thing you take home and eat at a leisurely pace. Not this guy.
Immediately, the man ripped off the wrapper and began cramming the iced loaf in his mouth like he hadn't eaten in a week. As soon as he was done, he gestured to the next loaf and said, "Another one."
The bread guy gave him a second loaf, and, just like before, he went at it like a piranha. Once he'd finished, he pointed to carrot cake number three.
"Another one," he said.
At this point the bread guy was getting concerned.
"Sir," he said, "Have you thought this through?"
Mr. Carrot Cake pointed to a woman at the other end of the market.
"You see that lady down there by that booth?"
"That's my wife. She never lets me eat any food like this, so give me the bread. Now!"
There was actually some cursing involved, but we'll keep it G-rated here. Clearly this man was desperate.
I don't know if his wife was a control freak or just plain mean. For all I know, she was trying to save his life. Whatever the case, she had pushed him to the point where he believed the only fun he could have was behind her back.
I think a lot of people see God like this. They think God is a spiteful control freak trying to ruin their fun. They believe that good stuff in life can only be experienced by going behind God's back, which, of course, is kind of hard to do with a being who knows everything.
Yet, if you look at the life of Jesus, everything He did flies in the face of this view of God. Jesus loved a party and took serious flack about it from the religious elite. He also went around saying crazy things like, "I have come that people may have life and have it to the full." He even called Himself "the bread of life."
When I go to the farmer's market and see all the incredible stuff the bread guy has on display, I understand that a little better. I understand that Jesus, the original bread guy, wants me to live.
It doesn't mean my life is going to be all cotton candy and pony rides, but it does mean that the God who created pleasure is FOR me. The God who invented chocolate and beaches and hugs did so for a reason. Because He is good and He made us to enjoy the life He created.
On the flip side, we find the greatest joy in our lives when we give it away in the service of others. In other words, we're made to reflect the generosity of the God who made all good things.
For my money, anyone who paints God as a cosmic Scrooge is no better than someone who denies you carrot cake. Ignore both types of people, because they will rob you of the pleasure of knowing the God who loves you and the good world He made.
Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.