The best meal I ever had? Hands down, without any hesitation it was cold, canned tuna, pork and beans from the can, and applesauce, stirred together and served.
Back in my young buck college days, a small group of friends and I spent about a week backpacking on the Appalachian Trail in western North Carolina. Long before the Internet, GPS, outdoor stores with packaged food, the friend who set up the trip and acted as guide had (and I use these words loosely) “a map.” It was a very broad map and not much help at all.
The day I had my best meal, we ate breakfast and hiked up to lunchtime, enjoying the friendships and aspects of the beauty of God’s creation. We stopped for lunch, rested for a bit, and then off we went on the next part of our hike.
About mid-afternoon we began looking for the campsite/shelter where we planned to eat dinner and spend the night. We started about what eventually became a six-time “I think the campsite is just over this hill.” Every time it became evident that we had “miles to go before we slept,” the trip got harder to walk down the mountain and walk up the next one, only to be disappointed to hear those dreaded words, “This isn’t it.” And so we would continue our more-than-weary walk again. No longer was this segment a fun backpacking trek.
The sun was almost set by the time we eventually reached our destination. When we later looked at the map, we calculated we had hiked well over 20 miles with full backpacks. Plus, these were real “mountain miles,” and not like the purported hills of Wilmington, North Carolina. We were like Saul’s son Jonathan, who was famished when he came in from battle (1 Samuel 14:24–27).
Before the last light we hurriedly opened the cans of tuna, pork and beans, and applesauce and dumped them in a bowl (I guess; I can’t really remember), and stirred them all together. Everyone present licked the plates clean better than most cats can. I have had some really fine meals since then (see Greg Hatteberg from Dallas Theological Seminary, Evangelical Theological Society, Baltimore, November, 2013). But none of the many fine meals has ever topped that one. Obviously, we were so starving for the food we so desperately needed.
The best meal I ever had? This one we so desperately needed even more than any “backpacking meal” we will ever eat, as depicted in 1 Corinthians 11:23–25:
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
The best meal I ever had since being saved? This was a long and protracted one—as well as one greatly unexpected. I’ll put it this way: we often sing (especially in the good times), “As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee.” More times than not, when we sing this, we do so during the more pleasant junctures of our lives and often are not really panting after God (at least this has been true of me at times). If we really are panting, we really are in agony of some form: spiritual, emotional, physical—or a combination thereof. It is often the hardest to sing this song during those times.
The best prolonged meal I ever had was with the incredible (to us) hardships during what became known as “The Wilderness” in the events leading up to the writing of The Cup and the Glory. God either allowed or brought about all the hardships and heartaches—but He also graciously brought about the thirst and the hunger—and I really did “panteth after Him.” This was different from that which He used to bring about my salvation. This was long after it, and at the time Betsy and I would have various conversations regarding the perplexity of why God was doing this. It is a lot easier to look back and see His hand and sovereign protection and guidance. Nothing was wasted; all was used by Him, and slowly but with precision we were being transformed more and more into His image as He literally was “restoring my soul” (Ps. 23:3).
The best meal I ever will have? Matthew’s account of the Last Supper adds this promise from our Savior-Shepherd: ““But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” This is the fourth of four cups of the Jewish Passover that Jesus refused to drink until His return to earth. The original eleven apostles will be there for this; perhaps we will to. But don’t feel left out if He chooses to limit that one particular Passover meal (which He may very well open up and allow us), because Revelation 19:7–9 add these yet to be fully explained details we will enjoy—with Him—throughout eternity, if you are part of the redeemed:
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.”
And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
And he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”
Paul concludes First Corinthians 16:22 by writing: “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed. Maranatha [O Lord Come!].”
So, how wonderfully refreshing are these love-song words in Revelation 22:17: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, “Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.”
The next-to-the last verse in Revelation states this: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).