Only a Vegetable?

"Poor thing," whispered one of the visitors as they left the hospital room, "she is only a vegetable." The words dug deep. Why had God let me survive an almost unsurvivable accident only to become a burden to others? There was no family to miss me. Someone would have to care for me the remainder of my life. There was insufficient insurance. I would be a burden to the taxpayers. Already a faithful Christian, I was ready to go to meet our Lord, or, if it was His will, to remain. But why? How could my helplessness glorify God? It was not a question asked in despair, anger, or rebellion. It was a question from a sincere heart. A heart that was hurting.

We believe that, "We have this assurance in approaching God, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us -- whatever we ask -- we know that we have what we asked of him (I John 5:14,15; NIV). The Greek word for "ask" used in this passage is "aiteo", which generally means to ask for something. In numerous other passages "erotao", meaning "to question," is translated "ask." When the disciples asked (erotao) Jesus concerning the parables he answered their questions. He even answered the questions they were afraid to ask! We pray for many things -- usually things of this world. Yet somehow we think it wrong to ask, "Why?" And if we were to ask as would a spoiled, belligerent child we might just receive the same treatment as would he. But if we ask to know the truth about something that we might be comforted, would not we be asking according to His will? And though we cannot comprehend ALL truth, will not He give to us that portion which we ARE able to comprehend?

Usually when we think of "vegetable" an image comes to our minds of that vegetable we most detested as a child. Maybe we tried to avoid eating it by trying to hide it. Then would come with that tone of authority, "eat your vegetables." Later, we began to realize that vegetables were good for us. And though we then ate them willingly, we did not necessarily like them. Then came a time when we found we actually enjoyed vegetables. That detested one may have even become our favorite!

But what about human "vegetables"? Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedic College Dictionary defines "vegetable" as the edible part of any herbaceous plant; any member of the vegetable kingdom, a plant. Used as an adjective it may refer to "resembling or like a vegetable in activity, etc.: dull, passive." This is the idea that usually comes to mind when used of a person.

Let us take a closer look. The word "vegetable" originates from Latin "vegere" - to be lively! This does not seem to make sense. A plant cannot "be lively." Some do grow rapidly, yet others do not. Yet, stop and think just a moment. Do not plants supply the needed nutrition for animals to be lively? Though the young may live on their mother's milk, does not she manufacture milk through the ingestion of plants?

How does all this apply to human "vegetables"? Are we not created in the image and likeness of God (Gensis 1:27)? Should any human be referred to as a "vegetable"? Certainly not in a derogatory sense. Yet did not Jesus call HIMSELF "the true vine" (John 15:1) and "the bread of life" (John 6:48)? Is not a vine of the vegetable kingdom? Is not bread made of grain, a plant? When we partake of the Lord's Supper, we do so only in remembrance (1 Corinthians 11:24). But when we were baptized into Him (Romans 6:3,4) were we not made partakers of His nature (2 Peter 1:4)? And did not bread and the fruit of the vine supply an essential part of man's diet in His day?

Our elders try to provide many opportunities for us to serve others as did our Lord so that we may have the proper spiritual nutrition and exercise that we may grow properly. But perhaps there is one avenue that is sometimes overlooked. It is not easy to be a "vegetable" and let others express their love through their service. We want to feel "independent". But John Milton, the English poet, wrote, "They also serve who only stand and wait." Milton was blind.

We have been begotten from above (John 3:3-6), which was culminated in baptism for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38). We grow through proper nutrition and exercise. When I see the glow on the face of a small child as he eagerly runs to open a door for me, I realize he is partaking of our Lord's nature. He is getting needed nutrition. When members of the congregation perform needed tasks for me, I realize that they are getting needed nutrition -- they are partaking of that which will make them "lively."

And if it be our Lord's will for me to remain and to serve through being a "vegetable," then willingly and faithfully I will do so. For in that way I, also, will get MY proper nutrition. And perhaps one day I will reach the level of maturity of one of our elders. As he toiled in the hot sun to make a bridge safe for my wheelchair, there was a song on his lips. When I asked him why he was singing when many would have been cursing. he replied, "I get joy out of helping those who are not able to repay me." There are many ways to bring joy into the lives of others. Being a vegetable may be one of those ways. And as I mature, I,too, will find joy in serving others. Yes, even helplessness may be used to glorify God!

Sandra F. Cobble

Published in The Old Paths Archive