“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien
“I won’t eat it!!” I screamed. “You didn’t put sugar on it, and it’s going to taste bad.” I feel the tears go down my cheeks and drip off my chin. I see the little spats of teardrops fall onto my nightshirt that is too tight on my 5-year-old belly. My mom, frustrated, tells me that I have no choice. I have to eat it, or go hungry. It’s the same fight we have daily. I was the child who wouldn’t eat. Every family has one, and in my family, that was my role. I still am pretty picky when it comes to food. My poor mom was always arguing with me to finish my plate. I was the kid who would leave the crust off the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or I would refuse to take one sip of my milk at dinner because I hated the after taste. When we had pizza, I used to take everything off of it…even the cheese and eat bread wiped down with tomato sauce. Don’t get me started how many times I sat at the dinner table for hours because I wouldn’t finish my dinner, or the fact that I would dry heave at the mere mention of cheese. I still take the raisins out of the oatmeal cookies. The stubborn streak in me made it even more difficult. I wasn’t afraid to say no, and fight for the right to NOT have to put broccoli in my mouth!
But, on this morning, my mom had made me a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. You see, I had never tasted these before. My only experiences with Cheerios were the bland ones that you had to almost drown in sugar to get a little bit of taste. While I was watching my mom make my cereal, I had noticed that she totally forgot to put the sugar on it. How could she do this? Does she even know me?? I’m totally on to her! However, when I reminded my mom of this, she immediately went into “you’re gonna eat it and like it” mode. Of course, that never really worked with me. “I’ll eat it if you put sugar on it!” I yelled at my mom in between sobs. “It doesn’t need sugar, it’s already got sugar on it!!” she yelled back. Ugh!! I know she is tricking me! Cheerios taste like brown air without something sweet on it. It has been the same my entire 5 years on this planet. Plus, most of the time when my mom says I’m gonna like something….I don’t!
Today was a little different scenario though. My grandparents were in town from Arkansas. Now, my grandparents had raised 4 boys, and I’m sure were familiar with this struggle. But, this time, they had a different perspective. They witnessed my stubborn streak, and my mom’s frustration. The battle over food is real, y’all! But, my Poppy decided to step in. He picked me up and put me in his lap. I remember him putting his work worn hands against my cheek so I would rest my head against his chest. I immediately started to calm down because his breathing was so steady. I was able to match my breathing with his. He reached out and took a Cheerio from on top the heap in my bowl and ate it. “Oh…yum. This is one of the best things I have ever had, “ he said. But, he didn’t really say it to me. He just spoke his words out loud like he was talking to himself. He reached out and took another one. I watched as he put it in his mouth and started crunching away. “Boy, these are way better than the old cheerios.” he muttered. By this time, I was settled down. The way he was saying it was so inviting. It wasn’t like he was yelling at me (although as an adult, I can totally relate to my mother!); he was showing me how good it was. He kept picking Cheerios off the top of my bowl and eating them. Then, just as if it was planned, he took one off the top and held it in front of me. I didn’t pick it up with my own hands; I just stuck out my tongue and picked it up that way. And, it was love. The honey sweetness just filled my mouth with the best flavor. Why was I fighting this?? It was pure deliciousness!! My taste buds were never so pleased to be wrong! I wanted more and more! I plopped off my Poppy’s lap and got into my chair and ate until I was full. I’m sure my mom was rolling her eyes as she watched me eat that bowl of cereal, but it was the tender touch that won me over.
Isn’t that true about most things? Sometimes, we as Christians get so passionate about our beliefs that we become aggressive. We get in our fighting stance and are ready to pounce at any moment on anyone who may disagree with us, or who may have another way of thinking. And, you know what, there may be a time and a place for that. But, most times, it’s the sweet tenderness of the Holy Spirit that brings people to Jesus. It’s the ever-loving draw from a Heavenly Father that invites those to come and quench their thirst in an otherwise drought.
Just like I was putting sugar on the Cheerios for me to even enjoy them, people are sweetening their lives with little sprinkles of artificial happiness. They are trying to find taste in an otherwise tasteless existence. They will pour mounds of sweetness on business, vacations, money, anything that can mask the bland reality and make it worth swallowing because life can be so dissatisfying. Plus, they are afraid of trying anything different because it’s all they know! But, guess what?? There is something different that can spark our appetite! Jesus! He brings His own flavor. We don’t have to worry about adding anything to Him. Life with Him is sweet enough all on its own.
As Christians, let us make it irresistible for non-believers to continue to digest the weak crumbs that the world offers. Let us live a life that is fragrant with the aroma of love that invites those to sit at our tables and taste and see that Jesus is so much more satisfying for the soul.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8
**By the way, that is a real picture of me when I was 5 years old. That was my facial expression for about 3 years. God bless my sweet and patient parents.