Close to the bone

My grandmother grew up in western Illinois.  After high school graduation, with a hopeful heart and a case of books to sell, she headed south.  Eighteen year-old Elizabeth met my Mississippi-born grandfather, Ray, in the humble boarding house they both called home.  She soon married this handsome southern gentleman, 8 years her senior, beginning her life as a southern wife and momma in central Alabama.

In time, my grandmother became southern through and through.  We called her “Me-ma.”  She loved to cook and she loved to eat.  Weekly she whipped up crackling cornbread in her well-seasoned iron skillet.  Sunday mornings were warm with bacon frying and tender buttermilk biscuits.  The savory aroma of pot roast or salty sweet ham blanketed Sunday afternoons.  But one of Me-ma’s favorite things was a simple pork chop - fried crisp in her heavy iron skillet, of course.   

I remember watching her savor those pork chops, relishing each bite.  No one cleaned the meat off the bone like my grandmother – with meticulous care and pure enjoyment.  I asked her once why she worked so hard to get every little morsel of meat off the bone.  “Beth Ann,” she replied, “the sweetest meat is always closest to the bone.”

Truer words were never spoken - about pork and about life.  Our best friends are our closest ones, the ones who have known us long and loved us well.  Our most trusted relationships are the ones who have held our secrets, dreams and fears, and been trustworthy with them all.  Gold is worth mining for.  The good stuff is worth diving deep for. 

The same is true with God.  He is deep.  He is vast.  He is limitless.  And what we find when we go “close to the bone” with God is nourishing, tasty and rich - a delicacy. We live in an age of fast food.  My thoughts about dinner on a typical day go something like this:  “What can I throw together today that’s relatively healthy, quick and easy?”

That mode of operation may work fairly well most of the time when it comes to dinner.  But real life?  Authentic, meaningful, rich life?  Not so much.  The sweetest life is lived glued to the heart of God.  That’s where real nourishment is.  Whether we realize it or not, that’s where all that we truly want or need is found.  Close to the bone.

But how do we get there?  Sometimes I find myself mired down in the mundane business of my day.  I feel as if I am walking around with the dentist’s heavy x-ray blanket draped around my shoulders!  Sadness has me cornered.  Frustration is winning. Lassoed by lack of focus, I stumble.  So I begin to rattle off all the things I “need.”  I need more time, more help, more rest, more coffee!  And then I realize.  I need more meat.  Not just any meat – but the sweetest meat.  The meat that takes time to glean, time to digest, time to enjoy.  The meat that fills, satisfies, nourishes and calms.  The meat that is found close to the bone.  

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Matthew 4:4

So, I sit.  Silently, still.  Whispering a plea for the Spirit of God to calm my mind and bring all that I am into focus on this one thing and this only.  Him.  As I pray distractions away I am able to draw near and invite His words to enter in.  As I continue to sit and feast on his words they begin to seep deep.   And I am close to the bone.  I am home. 

“Can you fathom the mysteries of God?  Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?  They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do?  They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know?  Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea.”  Job 11:7-9

There is no shortcut.  No quick and easy route to the sweetest meat found at the heart of God.  But the journey is worth the time, the sacrifice, and the discipline it takes to get there.  And the most beautiful thing is this:  He is there; waiting for you to find your way to every tasty morsel his heart has to offer.

“When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.  Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”  Jeremiah 29:13 (The Message)