Captured by the Stew
Once, in a land far away, there was a lovely little vegetable garden, happily growing in fertile bottomland. It was close enough to a fresh, clean, little country brook to have ready access to water, but far enough away to have no fear of flooding during the heavy spring rains. A few young cherry trees on one side provided ever so slight shading from the late afternoon sun, but otherwise the location was bright and sunny. Many varieties of exotic vegetables could be found in that little garden, all growing quite contentedly. Among them was a row of purple stringless beans – the kind that turn green when you cook them (yes, they really do exist).
Just beyond the brook was a dark thicket of Hawthorn trees – dense, forbidding and thick with thorns. In a small clearing in the center of that thicket, unbeknownst to the superlatively happy vegetables in the little garden, a campfire was burning, and over the campfire was a black pot containing a very nasty stew. It’s putrid odor completely engulfed the little clearing, but dissipated before reaching the edges of the thicket. The awful stench – for that’s what it really was – would have yielded not the slightest clue to anyone within smelling range of that stew what the ingredients in that black pot were. But they must have been noxious.
A hissing sound was coming from the pot as it simmered – something like a rasping whisper. It sounded strangely foreboding and ominous, but also vaguely intelligible, at least to an attentive ear. “Victims, victims. Tender purple victims!”
A dwarf-like creature suddenly appeared out of the shadows on the edge of the little clearing. His hair was long and stringy, his beard dirty and matted. Ancient warts dotted his long, hooked nose and protruding forehead. His eyes were dark, yet full of fire and menace. He reeked of foul stew. The creature stood for a moment, listening intently and scratching a scabby cheek, then went slinking off into the thicket in the direction of the little brook.
The sun was just beginning to set over the garden, and at the same time large dark thunderclouds were hastening nightfall. A chilly breeze began to blow, and clusters of thin purple beans began to shiver where they hung. Suddenly, out of the darkness that had now overtaken the garden, a little, sinewy hand with long, blackened nails emerged and began tearing clusters of tender beans from their vines and throwing them roughly into a bag of coarse cloth. What seemed like only a few moments before they had been enjoying the last warmth of the afternoon sun, oblivious to any danger. Now they had been ripped from their source of life and were being bounced and bruised, occasionally scratched or pierced by thorns, and bound for they knew not where.
Suddenly they felt an awful jolt as the bag that held them was rudely dropped to the ground. The same filthy hand that had ripped them from their vines reached in and pulled them out. In the light of a campfire a foaming black pot could be seen, its odoriferous contents poisoning the night air, and an awful, commanding whisper seeming to draw the dwarf-creature’s hand upward. For anyone who could have heard them, little high-pitched shrieks and screams of terror were in the air. “Captured by the stew! We’ve been captured by the stew!”
Then, just as the beans were about to be plunged into the depths of the foaming pot, a voice pierced the gloom. “Joshua, Joshua – you’ve got to wake up or you’ll be late for class!” Joshua, completely disoriented, rubbed his eyes, rolled out of bed, pulled on his clothes and rushed out of the dorm. He arrived in his classroom just in time to beat his professor there. But he was distracted all morning. Such a strange dream! What could it possibly mean? But somehow, unaccountably, he decided to lay off his social media accounts that day, and for quite a long time afterward.
[Note: This ridiculous little story was written in response to a decidedly serious discussion in our College Group about the negative impacts of social media on our national discourse, on our churches, and on individual Christians. The allegory is of course hyperbolic and its intent is by no means to say that the social media (the black pot with sinister whisper in this little story) have no redeeming qualities. Rather, it is meant simply to remind Christians that they can be taken captive unawares (like the little beans) and therefore to be spiritually alert and committed to godliness as they engage on these platforms. The phrase “captured by the stew” was an inadvertent mixing of metaphors by the leader of the College Group discussion (me), much to the amusement of some of the participants, a fact that is being made light of here. I trust that this little explanation will help overcome the “inside joke” aspect of this story. If not, I hope you enjoy it for its own sake.]