Am I worth more than a taste? Everything I know tells me yes. Screams it. I’m an educated woman. I’ve lived over 54 years. Why can’t I say no to the prospects of taste? Why am I driven by my appetites? Why do I give into the temptation of what tastes good instead of sticking to what I know is good for me?
I don’t like thinking that I am weak—pathetically weak. I am Goliath when there’s no food in front of me, but it all fades to fuss and bluster when I step before a buffet table covered with tasty morsels whose carb, fat, and calorie counts woo me into a submission that makes Samson look like an altar boy. Where does my resolve go then? What sucks out my brain leaving me alone with my voracious tongue and empty belly?
Are you ready for the oddest of confessions? I have, and on more than one occasion, asked God to inspire someone to create a food replicator. You know, like the one’s that were used on Star Trek. I have pleaded with Him for a machine that could take spinach taste like peppermint bark over chocolate (think the current decadent Gerahdelli chocolate commercials) or prunes melt in your mouth like New York cheesecake. Maybe He heard me, because now they’re finding ways to hide an extra serving of veggies in kids’ Beefaroni and apple juice.
It will probably come as no surprise to you that one of the most used metaphors in the Bible to make a spiritual point is food and eating. In the Old Testament we are told to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). Then in the New Testament, Jesus tells the disciples at the Last Supper to take the bread and cup for they are his broken body and spilt blood for them. And as oft as they eat it they, and we are to remember Him.
In Psalm 42, the psalmist declares that his soul thirsts for God and yet goes on to say that his tears have been his food day and night. Not a very satisfying diet, but I get it. How many times have you stood at either the refrigerator or cupboard, door open, just staring? Maybe, like me, you’re hoping that the perfect food choice will just jump out at you and take away that gnawing hunger that has a hold of your mouth. In a fleeting attempt to quell the taste monster you grab something quick and snarf it down. But it doesn’t slay the beast so in a few minutes you’re back searching. This process can go on infinitely and leave you feeling completely unsatisfied.
Paul got this concept spiritually and describes in his speech in Acts 17. In Athens Paul found himself surrounded by a religious people who were very spiritually hungry. They had created numerous idols in an attempt to fill that internal void. It should probably come as no surprise that there were even some Epicurean philosophers in the crowd (Known for “Eat, drink, for tomorrow we die” and their Epicurean delights). You remember, this is the crowd who in an attempt to cover all their spiritual bases even erected a statue to the unknown God (vs. 23).
So my soul thirsts for God, but I give it a diet of tears. What kind of sense does that make? About as much as continuing to eat baby food when we become adults. The writer of Hebrews points out how ridiculous that is. The believers had reached the point where they should have moved on from the milk of infants to the solid food of the mature. They should be craving this, Peter writes (1Peter 2:3) if in fact they have truly tasted that the Lord is good. Baby food is bland, somewhat tasteless, lacks texture and variety. There is no salt in baby food, no cayenne pepper. You don’t see jars of Gerber General Tso’s chicken or Pizza Hut super supreme pizza. Squash, pears, and mashed bananas, with milk or water to drink. My soul thirsts for McDonald’s sweet tea or cafe latte from Starbucks, served up with a generous meal cooked by Food Network’s Bobby Flay, but I settle for Similac and strained sweet potatoes.
My soul knows what it wants and needs, but seems to lack the ability to shout loudly enough over my roaring appetites. Jesus looked at the hungry crowds that followed him, heard their rumbling bellies and sensed their starving souls. He told them that if they wanted to be filled, completely satiated like we will be after we plow through our Thanksgiving spreads, that they need to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Later in that sermon, he tells them to not worry about what they will eat because God can and will feed them. They knew it to, because they still told the stories of the daily manna and the quail flying into camp. They knew that the Good Shepherd would provide for their every need. And if I’ll get honest, close my mouth, and listen to my heart and not my tongue, I know it, too. So do you.
The problem is that even though I know this, I’m not disciplined enough to live it. My focus is off. Instead of eating to live, I live to eat. God made food taste good and then gifted individuals who know how to bring out layers and layers of goodness. I want the goodness. And this becomes idolatry. It’s not what God wants for me, not physically and definitely not spiritually. It’s just as wrong to want the goodness of God, to crave the grace and blessings without hungering for the one gives those. I’m not supposed to fill myself with the gifts. I’m to hunger after the giver.
Jesus got this. We find in John 4 Jesus has an encounter with the Woman at the Well. Perhaps because they shouldn’t be talking at all, we find them talking in a kind of spiritual code, referring to water that will leave them never thirsty again. When the disciples show up, they try to offer Jesus food and he tells them that he has food they don’t even know about. They’re a bit miffed because they had just been to the local Kroger’s to get lunch. Jesus tells them this: My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work (vs. 34).
I’m going to enjoy our family Thanksgiving feast tomorrow. I will partake of the turkey, all the yummy sides, and finish it off with my mother-in-law’s delicious pecan pie. I will count my blessings and return thanks. And I will remember. I will remember that this is just a meal. It will fill my stomach and increase my fat cells, but for all the goodness, it is not my food. For as much attention as I give this body of mine, the truth is: I am so much more than this body. It will not last forever. My soul, however, will, and it is my soul that I need to be much more intention about caring for and feeding because it is what matters the most to God.
Am I worth more than a taste? God thinks so. He invites me, and you, to taste and find his goodness. He is so much better than the tears and bland baby food I have been trying to live on. David writes, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103) His promise is to completely fill and satisfy if we will hunger and thirst after him. No wonder Jesus taught his disciples to pray for daily bread. We can be sure that it is a prayer that will be answered!
I will probably still struggle with feeding myself with things that are less than satisfying, physically and spiritually. But hopefully I will get better at realizing when I need to be filling myself with more of Him. Remember the prayer we prayed as children gathering at mealtime: God is great, and God is good. And we thank him for our food. Amen. Maybe we were on the right track. Maybe it’s still a good track to be on. Amen and Amen!