Marcus Blair, pastor, Cornerstone Baptist Church
Her frail, trembling hand brought the silver fork up to her pale lips.
Taking the biggest bite of chocolate cake she could possibly muster, which wasn’t much, Geraldine closed her eyes in pleasure.
It was plain to see she was really enjoying her dessert – I mean REALLY enjoying it. I watched her from the next table over. We were in the middle of a holiday church dinner and the fellowship hall was positively ringing with conversation, clinking dishes, laughter, and the joyful noise of Christians enjoying their friendship.
The place was packed. Children scampered round and the whole church smelled of turkey, dressing, hot rolls, coffee, and, of course, in true Baptist style, a long table loaded with pies and cakes of every kind.
I didn’t know why at first, but Geraldine had caught my attention. She wasn’t being loud. She didn’t like to stand out. Then I realized: she was eating her dessert before the main meal.
That’s what drew my eye.
She was relishing a slab of chocolate cake in the way tiny children do: with eagerness and abandon.
Geri was by far the oldest member of a church I pastored in Oklahoma.
At 95, she was extremely fragile and stooped over. She needed help to move from the chair she most often occupied in her tiny house (which was as old as Oklahoma itself) to the white Ford F-150 owned by her son.
He would park right up against her front porch every Sunday and Wednesday to pick Geraldine up for church. Yes, she was old – ancient – but that didn’t stop her from coming to worship. I’d often look out of the church doors and see her coming, white hair blowing in the breeze, taking forever to get into the church using her walker.
And she was a joy to see. Her faith made everyone more motivated. Just about the time someone wanted to complain about life, or obligations that kept them from church attendance, they only had to look over at old Geri to know they were being ridiculous.
If she could come to church with regularity, anyone could!
Curious about Geri and her cake, I made my way over to where she was sitting.
There was a spot next to her, so I sat and sparked up a conversation. She loved company. As we visited, she continued to eat the cake while all around her, people were enjoying the main course.
“Geraldine, I have a question,” I said.
“Go ahead!” she replied.
“Why are you eating your cake first?”
She cracked a big grin and said, “When you’re as old as me, you learn to enjoy the sweet things in life first. I don’t know if I’ll be here five minutes from now, so if I die, I don’t want to miss the cake!”
Geraldine had it figured out: there is so much to enjoy in life, and we often take it for granted.
We say, “I’ll go to church someday when life slows down.” Or, “I’ll spend more time with my kids someday when my bank account is flush.” Or worse yet: “I’ll do what God asked me to do later on, when I don’t have so much living to do.”
The living we do must be done now, and can’t be put off. Eat the cake first! Be sure this holiday season to spend as much time as possible with loved ones.
Cherish every bite of the rich chocolate of our relationships. That’s the sweet stuff.
But also remember to indulge in the loving embrace of Christ, who bids us all to come to him if we are weary and tired from life.
He is the true sweetness of our existence. And a life spent without him isn’t sweet at all. In fact, it’s bitter.