One of the most difficult questions for me to answer is: “What do you want for dinner?”
Sometimes I look into my refrigerator packed with food and I can’t find anything I want to eat.
Everything or nothing looks good, or I don’t feel like cooking.
Or I’m tired of chicken.
Or there’s too many choices and I’m either too overwhelmed or too tired to choose.
Or maybe I don’t want dinner, but I don’t know what I want, so I’ll just eat dry cereal out of the box or a spoonful of ice cream from the carton in the freezer, trying to figure out exactly what it is that I want.
I read a poem the other day about a cat standing at the refrigerator crying loudly for milk, even though her bowl is filled.
She meows sadly, dips her whiskers in it, but doesn’t drink.
The author, Frances Mayes, ends the poem: “She stalks the room. She wants. Milk beyond milk. World beyond this one, she cries.”
Milk beyond milk.
As I sat down to write this, I had been thinking about the people Jesus encountered. I imagine they thought it was just a chance encounter, serendipity or happenstance, but nothing about Jesus is happenstance.
He went to a town called Nain and saw people carrying the body of a widow’s only son. Jesus told the woman, “Do not weep,” then told her dead son to rise, and he did.
Jesus fed thousands of hungry people, healed every person who asked for healing, turned water into wine for wedding guests.
When Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well on a hot day, after he asked her for a drink of water from the well, he offered her living water. He told her, “Everyone who drinks this (well) water will be thirsty again.
“But whoever drinks the water I will give will never be thirsty again.”
He also told her that he knew she had had five husbands, “and the man you now have is not your husband,” he said.
He knew she was thirsty.
With every person Jesus met, he knew what they said or thought they wanted wasn’t necessarily what they really wanted.
Jesus healed everyone who asked, but then he also spoke to their greater need.
He spared the life of a woman caught in adultery whom the religious leaders were about to stone to death, but he also told her, “... neither do I condemn you. Go now, and leave your life of sin.”
Likewise, after he healed a paralyzed man he told him, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Maria Su Wang, an associate professor of English at Biola University, writes in a commentary about the cat poem that the cat’s deeper thirst, “milk beyond milk,” compares to our deeper longings and that Jesus, being “fully divine, yet fully human,” understands and “empathizes with the very human need of how wanting the thing is also wanting the deeper thing. It is the human existential condition.”
Jesus fed hungry people bread and then told them, “I am the bread of life.”
Truly, it reminds me that everything I think I want, or in the times I don’t know what I want, it’s the deeper thing, the “world beyond this world,” that my soul actually longs for.
It’s Jesus, only Jesus.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria — I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing” and “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927 or via email at email@example.com.
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