I do not have a green thumb. I don’t speak to my plants. Instead I make them grab their throats, gasping for water, before I recognize their parched condition. Then I drench and almost drown them. This is no way to treat any living thing, plant or otherwise. Plants treated this unkindly are spindly and weak, anemic, with no strong root system.
Most of us enjoy stories about naïve amateurs who make bizarre mistakes. We chuckle knowingly over the man who complained about the performance of his new powerboat, only to have the marina staff discover that he’d launched the boat without taking it off the trailer, or the woman who mistook the CD-ROM drive on her computer for a retractable cup holder.
I live in a city of candles. At one end of Main Street, there’s a little jewel box of a shop that sells pure beeswax candles along with aromatherapy supplies, bath salts and hand-milled soaps that promise to impart an aura of serenity to the mundane affairs of the daily toilet. A few doors down, perfumed candles fill the New Age bookstore with the scent of generic spirituality.
Early on, even Jeremiah could have located himself somewhere within Frederick Buechner’s pithy essay on vocation in Wishful Thinking. “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” says Buechner.
Choose your words carefully if you preach to the people back home. Those who knew you will remember things that make many messages seem odd. Prophetic moralizing, for example, would sound hypocritical coming from most folks in such circumstances.