Thursday, June 27, 2013

Just a Taste, a Little Sampling

Have you ever gone to one of those ice cream stores with all the esoteric flavors? Yes, they have the traditional vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, but they entice you to experience an ice cream adventure. A trip to the wild side of frozen confections.

Some of the flavors are easy to dismiss. Like marshmallow mustard swirl, or jalapeno banana garlic delight. No thank you. Or peanut butter mushroom truffle. Uh…no. And boysenberry walnut broccoli will always rank among my least favorites.

Once we've taken a taste, we can choose
whether we're interested in having more.
But there are other flavors that are intriguing. You see the name and think, “I wonder how that tastes?” Something like chocolate coconut mint. Or strawberry orange sprinkle?

Maybe you’re a bit tired of your standard butter pecan, rocky road or mint chocolate chip, and feeling frivolous enough for something new and different. But don’t want to risk a whole cone or dish on something that might sound better than it tastes. So you request a sample, and they provide it on a tiny spoon. You know, the size that would work well for a four-week-old infant?

You take the taste and decide, “Wow, that’s great! I’ll have some more,” or conclude, “Nope. Think I’ll stick with my usual, chocolate almond.” But at least you got to try it, right? Just a sample, to see if it’s for you?

In a sense, God does that for us with everyday life experiences. Much of every day is mundane, humdrum stuff of little consequence. But once in a while we encounter something spectacular, so far out of the ordinary it practically takes our breath away. A gorgeous sunrise or sunset, for example. A flower exploding with color, or a beautiful bird perched on a nearby branch. A baby or toddler so adorable you can’t help but giggle.

At such times I can almost hear the Lord saying, “You think that’s something? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” (Hey, if He chooses to use bad grammar, who am I to say He can’t?)

I’ve had times like that spiritually as well. A classic hymn striking a chord in my heart, making me feel so close to God I’m afraid to move for fear of losing that sense. Or hearing someone tell what the Lord has done in their life and I want to cheer: “Yup, that’s Abba. That’s my Father!” Or reading a Bible passage that seems written just for me.

The Bible says God delights in giving us a taste of what’s to come, but just a taste – not an entire meal. For instance, Psalm 34:8 tells us, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Elsewhere we’re told, “Like newborn babies, crave your spiritual milk, so that you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3).

For some of us this taste, the occasional sampling God provides in our lives, is enough to make us long for more of the real thing. Jesus told His followers, “In my Father’s house there are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). Especially as I get older, I figure if Jesus has prepared a place for me, I’m eager to check it out.

But like at the ice cream shop, where the taste of some flavors isn’t appealing, not all people sampling the “taste” from God want more. For whatever reason, it’s not for them. And just as the ice cream server doesn’t force us to eat a flavor we don’t want, nonbelievers aren’t forced to accept what God offers.

I’m not a theologian, but perhaps that’s why Hebrews 6:4-6 states, “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift…who have tasted the goodness of the word of God…if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance.”

God doesn’t just offer an ice cream cone, or some little treat. He presents a lavish banquet, and invites us to be His guests. But like a gracious host, He doesn’t force us to come. On the heavenly RSVP, we can check the “I will not be attending” box.

His only response is, “You don’t know what you’re missing.”

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