A Parable on the Use of the Means of Grace

A young man once fancied a woman. She was beautiful and wise and strong and made a comfortable living. She owned a coffee shop that the young man went to. A friend of his introduced him to her and he fell in love at once and she loved him too.

He began to frequent the coffee shop every morning. He bought t-shirts with the logo, he bought coffee mugs with the logo, he drank many of the different blends of coffee from the shop. And every morning the lovely woman would greet him when he entered the shop and they would spend a delightful morning together.

But after months of this he came in the shop one morning and she wasn’t there. He saw that it was still her shop and recognized that it was still her style and taste in the decor. He saw her handwriting on the blackboards and on notes at the register, but he didn’t see her. His heart was heavy. Yet he thought to himself, “Surely she’ll see that I continue to return to her shop! I know that she’ll see my love for her coffee and she’ll come and meet me again. I will spend more time and money in her shop. That will please her!”

And he did. He started coming in the evenings after work. He bought t-shirts and mugs for his family. His cubicle at work was covered with trinkets from the shop. But every time he entered and she wasn’t there, the coffee didn’t taste as good. The decor seemed nice but not as lovely. For a week or two he stopped coming all together. His heart was heavy and he missed the lovely woman but the coffee shop didn’t hold the same appeal without her.

After two weeks, he returned to the shop and his heart warmed when he saw her behind the register. He got his coffee and sat at their favorite table by a window near the sidewalk. After a moment, she joined him.

“Where have you been?”, he asked. “I came here twice a day for a while. I bought books about coffee. I did all of the things I know you love in order to make you happy but you didn’t come.”

“But my dear, I don’t love you because of your devotion to coffee.” She laid a soft hand on his cheek as she spoke.  “And though we will meet here often, this isn’t the only way you can be with me. It is a very good place for us to meet, for it is my shop. But you could call me and we could talk. Or we could meet for a walk in the forest. Or at a concert. There are other places for us.”

“But where did you go?” his sad eyes begged an answer.

“I withdrew from this place to draw you out to love me more than my shop.” She had tears as she spoke. “It was hard for me to pull back but it was the only way to draw your heart closer to me. I love that you love my shop but it is more important to me that you love me.” She wiped a tear from her cheek, “It was hard for both of us but it was the best way to strengthen our relationship. I love you.”

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.'” – Jeremiah 7:1-4

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