Michelle, the girls and I were at my parent’s house the other Saturday having lunch. We had salad and potato soup, it was very good. Kaitlyn didn’t finish all her soup and said that she was full. My mom then brought out dessert. It was a pistachio salad. It was one that has a lot of whipped cream, those small marshmallows, bits of pineapple and bits of pistachio. It is really more of a dessert than a salad. This one was dyed green and tasted wonderful. Although Kaitlyn said she was full, we could tell she wanted some of the salad. Since we were at my mom and dad’s house we allowed her to have some of the “salad” (at our house, she probably wouldn’t have gotten any because if she were too full to finish her lunch, she would have been too full to have dessert). One of Kaitlyn’s reasons for why she should have some was because it was green, “and green things are good for you.” Michelle, who is so quick, looked at Kaitlyn and replied back to her “that is why I eat mint chocolate chip ice cream.”
Oh the way our minds reason things out. As I sit and think about Kaitlyn’s statement and Michelle’s follow up reply I was wondering about the different ways we can interpret good. We hear our doctor say that “it would be good for you to eat less saturated fat, but eat more vegetables. Then we say to ourselves, “Oh that mint chocolate chip ice cream is so good.” Well, which one is good? Both I guess, but in different ways. There is good as in beneficial, helpful, right and then there is good as in enjoyable, pleasurable, and gratifying. Let me take the conversation outside of food.
Peter, James and John are on a mountain with Jesus and “there he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus” (Matthew 17:2-3). When Peter saw this, he spoke up and said to Jesus “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters-- one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” In Mark we learn that he was so frightened, he didn’t know what to say. But think about Peter’s thinking with me. Good for Peter in that moment was something that they would enjoy, but it wasn’t the right thing or apparently the good thing to do. They were going to go back down the mountain and find the other disciples in a tough spot.
Good as in enjoyable for me, and good as in right, don’t always lead the same way. What we consider enjoyable, pleasurable, or gratifying when it is about us may not always be good in the other sense. I would really enjoy a nice new car but it may not be the good way for me to use what God has given me. There may be a way that He desires me to use what He has blessed me with that is good. Please don’t hear me say that enjoyable and right can’t go hand in hand. God has created the world to be enjoyed. He has blessed us not only so that we can survive, but live as well. The question is what “good” directs us? What Jesus found as “good” – right – was obedience to His Father. His Father’s will gave Him direction.
Where do we find our “good”? For me, the scriptures are at the heart of it because they share with us the heart of the Father, Christ and the Spirit. They give me a foundation to stand on and a direction to go. What defines your “good’ as in what is right? Have we confused the two goods? Is pleasure, enjoyment, gratification our foundation we stand on and our guide that directs us? Again, the two can walk hand and hand at times, but if we are going to follow one, which one is it? The cross is an obvious picture of this. I don’t think Jesus would have said that it is good, as in pleasurable or enjoyable. But, I do think He would say that it is good, as in right or beneficial. He knew that it was the Father’s will. He knew that is was good, but also that it was not going to be “good” for him in the moment.
I will remind you that where God the Father and Christ the Good Shepherd lead us, is to a good place. On the journey, we may find ourselves walking through the shadow of death, to places that may not gratify our physical pleasures and sometimes cause us to be in a hard spot. But where we end is good. I know pistachio salad is good and not good at the same time. Are there places in my life where I live with the same tension? What good do I let lead me?
Rev. Lynn Beach is married to his college sweetheart, Michelle, and they have two adorable daughters. He has been at Park Church since July 2013.