The Parable of the Vanilla Milk Shake

Background Passages: Proverbs 119:18, I Cor. 3:1-3, I Cor. 13:11, and 2 Tim. 3:16

Sometimes the most ironic humor comes from that which we observe or fail to observe around us. I find the best comedians to be those who extract humor from ordinary life events. Though not a part of the mainstream entertainment world, comedian Jeanne Robertson is a master at sharing life as it unfolds around her. She tells a story of stopping for a drink of water and talking herself into a vanilla milk shake. Listen to her describe her experience in the following video.

I chuckle at this story because I relate so completely at times with the clerk whose mind consistently overlooks the obvious. Because the circumstance doesn’t mesh with the preconceived possibilities staring at her from the cash register, she cannot find a way to address the customer’s request.

The story made me wonder how often I fail to see the truth revealed to me because of my preconceived notions of the truth as I know…and want…it to be. It is a trap easily tripped as we live in the social, emotional and political world around us. It’s also a snare that prevents us from freely grasping the truth of God’s teachings and its application in our lives.

Absent a bolt of lightning or burning bush, most of us uncover the will of God in our lives through a deeper and more meaningful understanding of his Word as revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. If that’s true, then this Parable of the Vanilla Milk Shake serves as an apt reminder of how we should approach our study of the Bible–with eyes wide open and searching to understanding that lies buried within the words printed in scripture.

Paul reminded the church in Corinth (I Cor. 3:1-3)that the evidence of their lives made him think of them still as spiritual infants, able only to drink milk rather than solid food he offered them. Despite their years in the faith, they had not grown to understand its full meaning and application of what it means to be a follower of Christ. Paul also reminded us (I Cor. 13:11)that if we’re still seeing things through the eyes of a child we are not growing in our understanding of the life God would have us lead.

Like the clerk in Robertson’s story, I lock myself onto that which I learned years ago, content that the “truth” I learned as a teenager remains permanently valid for my life today. That what I learned as a child and reasoned as a child, should not be put away. In truth, God teaches me new things almost every time I open myself to his Word. I can read a passage of scripture today that I’ve read and studied for years only to wake up in wide-eyed wonder at a new thought God’s spirit has revealed…to understand how that verse applies in my life–not yesterday, but today. Not then, but this moment in my life. Much like the clerk behind the counter, I read that familiar passage and the light in my heart and my eyes turns on. I find a new way to think about and apply what was right in front of me all the time.

I’ve read Psalms 119 several times over the years. I even taught this portion of the chapter in my Sunday School class a few weeks ago. Yet, this week as I scanned across it again, several new thoughts occurred to me.

There are wonderful things in the Bible just waiting for God to show them to us. I like to think I am a reasonably bright man, yet I am unable to comprehend the complexity of God’s word on my own without his inspiration. His truth must be revealed in our lives at a time and place of God’s choosing. They are words that enable us to get the most out of our relationships with God and others.

Paul once told Timothy, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16) Those wonderful things in scripture change us in ways we can only imagine and empower us in ways we never dreamed to do the work God asks of us.

The passage teaches us that we are incapable of discovering all these wonderful things unless God first opens our eyes. Reading through his word without seeking the revelation of the spirit is like the blind man who after first experiencing Jesus’ healing touch saw a world in which men looked like trees walking around. We might, on our own, find a nugget of truth lying on the surface of scripture and see God’s word vaguely. We will never see his word with the kind of clarity that profoundly changes our hearts and our lives unless he opens our eyes to the possibilities.

Since we cannot explore the depths of God’s word on our own, we must pray that he shines light upon his word every time we turn the page. Helpless to see the beauty and wonder of God’s teachings through my myopic lens, I must ask him to “Open my eyes, Lord, and let me see the wonderful things in your law.”

I liked Jeanne Robertson’s description of the young clerk as she realized could not offer the family their desired chocolate milk shakes. With a gleam in her eyes, the young woman offered instead four vanilla shakes that, until that day, she never knew she had. It was a delightful revelation.

The Parable of the Vanilla Milk Shake teaches a wonderful lesson. The Christian walk evolves and grows as we allow God to teach us…the ultimate in life-long learning. Some of the best things in life have been there all the time. Our eyes just failed to see them. I am grateful to love a God who shows me what I need to know when I need to know it through the inspiration of his active and indwelling spirit. Open my eyes, Lord. There are so many more wonderful things to learn. It is a delightful revelation.

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