A New Summer

sliced vegetables

To say someone is typically Southern is to say something about a good tomato, full of flavor, ripened, honest, generally and commonly liked by all. I remain distrustful of someone who doesn’t like a good Nightshade.

Summer is ending. My mind is tinged with a forced dormancy. Nine months must pass before a good tomato sandwich will find my plate again. When a Southerner talks tomato sandwiches, good is a point of preferential difference on some details, but an unspoken and understood acceptance that there ain’t nothing better. My lycopene craving remains a lament until next summer.

I don’t expect thorough agreement on the best attributes of a tomato sandwich. Constructing one is as regional as any Southern word like you’uns or y’all and the aforementioned “ain’t” or picking a favorite Nascar driver, but I won’t start an argument.

Tomato sandwiches simply begin with a good tomato and on this point, there is no disagreement. They are always picked from a vine from your own garden or a neighbor choosing to share. No good tomatoes exist in a grocery store, even those hydroponic, almost-tomatoes. The sandwich is always made with white bread, I prefer Sunbeam, and a healthy dose of mayonnaise, Dukes variety over any vegan fakery, and add pepper to taste. Happiness is simple in the summer.

Summer’s end conveys finality. That’s what endings do. The Christian who tries and fails and fails again either stumbles or bursts upon the final idea his effort gains him nothing. He comes to an end where the only path left to him is to turn to God or cease all hope, an end equidistant from grace and self-will. Self-righteous people delay the ending. Goodness in itself does not delay it. Believing in our own goodness does.

Earthly finality is a cessation of hope. And it is here Christianity veers. The Christian knows another summer will come, knows that he will weather this summer’s end and the coming winter. He lives in the hope next summer will be better and the harvest will be bountiful. It is not a false hope or some wish without merit, but a ceding all is in God’s hands; it’s a promise heard, but unknowable until we reach the end of our deluded goodness. This is the end to which we come, a realization our own will is insufficient gain against the hope God offers.

I came to many ends until I came to my final. And in my darkest end, a light began to shine, the only light left to me, piercing through my suspicion, reticence and uninhabited vulnerability. I have never walked to Damascus. I possess a Nicodemus mind. God’s light bypassed my doubt and found my soul. One by one my illusions fell, and my vulnerability dared not suffer some trite response.

Somewhere, in some place, in some time, my summer of illusions ended. Winter came. Suspended by my end, trusting Him, God’s new summer began.

“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15).

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