Our sense of taste picks up the splash of lime zinging through guacamole and perceives the dash of cayenne elevating the richness of a chocolate cake. We delight in a bite of Crème Brulee followed by the sip of an espresso, a perfect foil for such sweetness. Taste helps us perceive the flavors of food, to discern notes of sweetness, saltiness, sourness, savoriness, and bitterness that sing along a scale of 100,000 flavor possibilities.
Did you know that God has senses (Gen 1.3-4; Lev 1.9; 2 Chr 7.3, 12-16; Ps 34)? Creating us in his image, God endows humankind with senses to help us gather, identify, and interpret information from the world around us. Senses help us to perceive, to become aware of and understand, what we experience in life. They even help us “taste and see,” or “try and experience,” God (Ps 34.8). But many Christians distrust their physical and spiritual senses, interpreting them as selfish or sinful. They restrict, settling for mudpies made from watered-down desires and crumbly faith. Others indulge their senses, preferring drive-thru devos and vending machine Churches where they can chug carbonation and chew on over-processed cow.
I tried restriction and indulgence; neither approach satisfied. Then God began to show me how his salvation permeates my senses and restores my abilities to perceive. As he leads me to taste and see more of who he is, my faith increases. I express my needs and desires and trust God with them. Each day I more appropriately perceive the flavor combinations he uses, such as:
The saltiness of longing. We crave healing from heartache, intimacy with a spouse, dissolution of debt, reconciliation, proposals, promotions, vacations. We yearn for peace, for a world made right and hearts made whole. While we could despair, allowing longing to drip its brine into our souls, the better choice is to allow it to brighten the blandness of our under-developed faith. Think of the depth of flavor a sprinkling of coarse sea salt adds to a creamy caramel. Yummm-oh.
The bitterness of loss. Another year without pregnancy, another month without employment, another week without a date, another night without sleep. Scripture says death stings, but when the tartness of pain squirts across the soul, it seems unbearable. Think of that acrid aftertaste lingering after eating raw kale or arugula. Loss leaves an aftertaste, too: a temptation toward unforgiveness or despair. Could anything brighten such bitterness?
The sweetness of love. Opposition and indifference from others sting, but God uses these pungencies to enhance the sweetness of relationships which are true and intimate. Life serves bitterness, sourness, saltiness, but as we practice spiritual disciplineslike solitude, worship, prayer, feasting, community, the sweetness of God’s love becomes more pronounced. He meets us in brokenness, placing his finger on our souls and depositing a drop of honey so that we taste and see. He is good.
Are you tired of restricting? Indulging? Do you want to savor the flavors of life offered by Christ? Then come to the table where you will find the following:
Palate cleansing. A nibble of pickled ginger clears the palate and refreshes the mouth throughout a sushi dinner. Palate cleansers neutralize any filminess or remnant flavorings in our mouths which hinder other flavors from becoming pronounced. The Holy Spirit works similarly as he convicts, prompts repentance, and reveals more of Christ. The Spirit refreshes as he rehumanizes, empowering believers to use senses and perceptions in alignment with God.
Hydration. Christians experience a constant cotton mouth as we longingly await our Savior, but all of humanity thirsts. That is because God created us to crave salt, intimacy with him and others. Non-believers and even Christians use alternative methods of hydration like selfish ambition and manipulation until we realize that only God quenches thirst. Meditating on his word and walking in faith according to it is a constant cycle of hydration, dehydration, and rehydration.
Validation. Rather than considering my desires selfish or sinful, God validates them while helping me prioritize them. CS Lewis explains, “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mudpies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Just as saltiness enhances sweetness, my longing for marriage brightens singleness by drawing out a deeper dependency on God and understanding of his love. Just as the acidity of lime juice slices through creamy guacamole, rejection and redirection slice through misconceptions that once coated my soul. You see, rather than denying, disguising, and distrusting our senses and perceptions, God incorporates them into our faith by restoring them.
Restoration. While repression and indulgence may seem appropriate, Christianity recommends neither approach. Christ offers a third option: restoration. You see, once a human being experiences rebirth, God gives her the capacity to truly taste and see, to perceive and partake of his righteous rule and presence already here and yet to come (Jn 3.3). So, the celibate Christian who refrains can live a restored, rather than repressed, sexuality. The spouse partaking can live a restored, rather than indulgent one.
No more mudpies, dear ones. Let us savor the flavors of life in Christ.