Pickled Perfection and the Doctrine of Sanctification

The cucumber, it seems, was placed on this planet for a very important purpose: to be pickled. If you don’t like pickles, shame on you (but there’s grace). But for all you pickle lovers out there, I join with you in declaring my adoration for this crunchy and delicious food staple. Not only does the pickle taste wonderful (my favorite is the Wickle; check it out here), it also delivers an incredibly important message. You read me correctly. The pickle can teach us some valuable lessons for us wearied sinners.

Firstly, the pickle is, by nature, preserved. One can pickle anything, but the process starts by putting the desired object into pickling liquid (vinegar+some other magical things). This preserves the said object and can, for years, ensure its tastiness. My Mamo (the affectionate name of my paternal grandmother) makes the best sweet pickles I know of (and also the best sweet tea; move over Chik-Fil-A). We’ve had them at most family gatherings since I was a kid, but lately, they have begun to take periodic hiatuses from the banquet table. So this Christmas, I cordially reminded Mamo that I was expecting sweet pickles at Christmas Eve dinner (I know, I know, but they’re fantastic). So the evening comes upon us, and voila! Sweet pickles. And then we did the math. How long, exactly, had it been since she made sweet pickles? The last batch she concocted was circa 2000 ad, or around fourteen years ago. Don’t turn your noses up! Yes, these pickles had been sitting there for that long, but they tasted great. Friends, if we are in Christ, we are going to be preserved. So much of my time is spent fretting over my position in Christ. I look at myself and think, “I’ve crossed too many sin barriers and turned my nose up at Him too many times.” I think He’s going to look at me with a sympathetic but helpless look when I see Him and say, “Sorry, pal. You’ve messed things up too many times. There’s nothing I can do for you, now.” This simply isn’t true. Christians, you’re gonna make it across the finish line; the whole Bible points to this fact. Some of us may just make it in, but the thing is to cross the line, not to do so with flying colors. Christ’s victory guarantees our victory.

Secondly, the cucumber placed in the pickling juice is then transformed by time and marination into a new, different tasting object, an object that is arguably better than the original. These sweet pickles I had at Christmas resembled, in some form, a cucumber, but their color and their taste had changed. Friends, change takes a while for Christians as well. It takes life, it takes suffering, and it takes time to turn us into full-fledged, righteous, Christ-imaging persons. Sure, there is an extremely real aspect in which, when someone comes to Christ, they are made completely new. But there is also a profound reality that Christians are being made new as time progresses. We are being further made more into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18) as we marinate in the Spirit and the Spirit works on us. So much of my time is spent fretting over the fact that I’m not progressing as I should be. Why do I still do the things I do? Why am I not more perfect? As a mentor once said, “You don’t measure the growth of a tree by standing over the seed and waiting for it to turn into an oak. It takes time. Come back and measure it in a year.” Obviously this isn’t a license to sin. I’m not saying, “Be comfortable with your wretched-ness. Revel in it!” No, we should be uncomfortable with our sin. We should make every effort to be holy this side of eternity, but we should also accept, as the pickle teaches, that good things take time. Christians, God isn’t done with you. You will be what He wants you to be when He wants you to be it. Just marinate a little longer.

Thank you, pickles, for the lessons you teach. Though we can think these things “cute”, I need to hear these things every day. With the grind of life and the often perpetual, morbid introspection with which we examine ourselves, Christians can often lose sight of the fact that Christ, while proving His faithfulness to us at the cross, is also proving His faithfulness to us now and will prove it to us in the future.


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