Billy received a cucumber in a bottle as a gift. Being a curious lad, he wanted to know just how such a large cucumber could be swallowed by such a small-necked bottle. One day Billy watched his next door pick a cucumber out of his garden and slip it into a bottle: his moment of truth had come!
Billy readily understood that the neighbor’s cucumber could never escape from its bottle. But more important, it became deeply personal when he thought about some of the choices he faced that could, like the cucumber, be easily captured in a circumstantial bottle. One small and insignificant sin could easily be defined as a small cucumber; yet when confined by circumstances, that little green cucumber could discover that escape from the bottle was impossible.
“The reason I am here today,” confessed a prison inmate, “is because I stole an apple from a Fruit Market when I was a boy. I went inside looking for something to go with my lunch. I was in a big hurry so I and crammed the apple in my pocket although I didn’t intend to steal it. I discovered that it was so easy, one thing led to another, without being caught. Stealing that apple became my first step toward committing murder.”
Thoughtless acts and words in our lives can grow rapidly into life-destroying habits. Like the small cucumber Billy’s neighbor put into the neck of the bottle; just one careless behavior can grow into a dwarfed tree. When captured in the dry climate of that empty bottle, it continues to grow by absorbing the sustaining moisture from the air in the bottle, yet adds no lasting value to life.
Given sufficient time, just one small but bad behavior grows easily into a bottle-necked habit that effectively limits your freedom or controls your life. Given sufficient time, a credit card account can accumulate and surpass your ability to maintain payments, eventually destroying your reputation for integrity. Wisdom suggests that we choose our ruts carefully; for we may be in it far longer than we planned for.
On the other hand; disciplined study habits can produce superior scholarship and other academic achievements. The beloved Apostle John understood this when he challenged his first century audience. “Beloved, now we are children of God,” John announced, “and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be,” but “when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as he is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (I John 3:2-3, NASV).
By preparing ourselves for the better things of life, we may well avoid becoming a large cucumber in a small bottle. Better that we follow the example of the old farmer who first sighted his fence post across his field, then pointed his tractor in that direction, plowing while he went.
Joshua modeled Godly wisdom when he made an exemplary choice that we can each follow: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). The poet expressed this eternal truth in readily understood poetic form:
I took a piece of plastic clay
And idly fashioned it one day;
And as my fingers pressed it still,
It moved and yielded to my will.
I came again when days were passed,
The bit of clay was hard at last;
The form I gave it still it bore,
But I could change the form no more.
I took a piece of living clay,
And touched it gently day by day;
And molded with my power and art,
A young child’s soft and yielding heart.
I came again when years were gone,
It was a man I looked upon;
That early impress still he wore,
I could change the form no more.
The poet’s metaphor underscores an eternal verity that gives new meaning to individual lives, while also underscoring a reason the church needs to return to Sunday school ministries and solid teaching of Christian educators.
From Warner’s World, you can reach me at walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com