Watchword for the week beginning May 4, 2014:
You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.
1 Peter 1:23
What ultimately turns out to be perishable doesn’t seem so at first. A bouquet of broccoli, a glossy polished apple, a perfect pint of blueberries—the Farmers’ Market yields a vivid assortment, plump and juicy. An eggplant, purply smooth and taut as a pregnant belly, evokes the vivacious promise that all of life is wonderment, beauty and jubilant possibility.
But to grasp what it means to be perishable, all I need to do is tour my own refrigerator, a museum holding a full array of good-but-failed intentions toward the goal of fresh and healthy eating. Beginning with the upper shelves, I view the untouched packages of tofu, both silken and firm, hiding behind the partially-consumed carton of organic Greek yogurt. Proceeding downward past the skim milk and orange juice jugs, I take in the amassed collection of plastic leftover containers archived by date, the most recent scoops of soups and casseroles toward the front and the oldest, molding samples at the back. (This is where the penicillin develops.) And for the finest examples of putrefaction, I visit the fruit and vegetable crisper bins where the carrots and onions are holding up pretty well, but where a couple of cucumbers inside a grocery store produce bag have turned to mush, a lime has dehydrated, and the cabbage I was too lazy to shred has decomposed and is emitting an unpleasant, sulfur-scented cloud.
What is perishable, no matter how promising, is impermanent. It’s a good thing that tomorrow is Garbage Day.
“Imperishable” isn’t a word that often comes up in my everyday conversations. The closest thing to it would be “non-perishable,” as in: “The Youth Group is collecting non-perishable items for the local Food Pantry. Please bring your donations with you next Sunday.” Non-perishability conjures the kind of dependable permanence attached to SPAM and canned beef stew, tins that reside in the darkest, lowest shelf of a kitchen’s corner cupboard. What is non-perishable is stable, but not especially vibrant.
And that is far different from what is imperishable. What is imperishable is permanent, yes, but also exquisite. It is the perfection of sweet, sun-kissed strawberries, but sweet, sun-kissed strawberries that never go out of season or give way to decay. What is imperishable is perpetually luscious and steadfastly delightful. What is imperishable is eternal. What is eternal cannot yet be known by us who are oh-so-very perishable. And yet we get a taste—a delectable, lingering taste—every time we take in the essence of love. The flavor of love—pure and saturated--tantalizes us in the present and causes us to crave after more of the same. Love will be, one day, what satisfies us completely and perpetually. Love, splendidly cultivated, sumptuously ripe, and forever fresh—this is what we expect the imperishable seed is always growing into.