Disheveled Theologian: What's hidden inside the husk?

O'Donnell Gretchen

I came home from work one afternoon this past week and there, sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, was a bag of corn.

You know exactly how I felt, right? That first corn-on-the-cob of the year. I could almost taste it. See the pale yellow and white kernels. Smell the fresh clean air, the rich soil from whence it came…

Yes, I waxed poetic for a moment, standing there. There is no other Midwestern moment quite like that first summer corn. And even better, I hadn’t expected it so that was a lovely surprise.

My mother didn’t plant corn in her huge garden when I was growing up. She tried once or twice, but corn simply didn’t grow very well in our patch of northern Orcas Island, Wash. It wasn’t sunny enough, Mom said. Instead she planted lots of green beans and peas and zucchini.

I could have done without the zucchini.


Since I had no first-hand experience picking corn or analyzing its readiness, I was a complete novice when I moved to Worthington. At some point in my first summer here, I joined a sweet-corn-picking crew of church high-schoolers, who were sent out to a field and told to pick corn for a youth-group fund-raiser.

“Hey, I can do this!” I thought. “How hard can it be?”

Turns out it was a bit harder than I knew, though I didn’t realize that until after I’d picked it.

So there I was, picking corn with a bunch of farmer’s kids and other teenagers wiser than I was in the ways of corn, and I had a fine old time. We put a dozen ears at a time into bags, carried the bags to our cars, and then delivered them to the friendly folks who’d ordered them. Though I didn’t know the town at all well yet, I agreed to deliver two bags a piece to two different homes.

No problem. I found the correct homes. I delivered the corn.

That evening I received a phone call from one of the two people to whom I had delivered the delectable sweet corn.

“Gretchen? This is Betty. (Her name isn’t Betty, but I’ll protect her innocence.) You brought me some corn today.”

“Yes, I remember,” I said brightly. “How is it?”


“It’s not good. You brought me a bag of field corn.”

Imagine, for a moment, my utter confusion. I knew what field corn was, though it had taken me a while to learn about it because I’d never heard of field corn before moving to the Midwest. I knew that I had been picking corn in the exact same field that the other kids had been picking in. How on earth could I have somehow picked the wrong corn?

And then it hit me: I had been favoring the nice, tall, slightly darker-stemmed stalks of corn that occasionally turned up in the patch. Why I thought this was a good idea, I don’t know other than the fact that they looked better and larger than the rest of the corn in the field. I had no clue that the lovely, tall stalks I had picked from were volunteers from the year before when the field had been planted with field corn.

I was totally fooled by what, to me, looked nicer. Stronger. Tastier.

Yep. I was an idiot. That wasn’t the first time, nor was it the last. Idiocy is a chronic human condition. We see and we don’t understand. We judge and we are wrong. We look on the outside … but what matters, is on the inside.

It’s a good thing that God — the one whose judgment ultimately matters — sees inside the cornhusks of our lives.

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance , but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV


Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is

Related Topics: FAITH
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