I am perhaps one of the most qualified people to write this post.
I know some people who are very particular about what they eat. They immediately spit out whatever they find the least bit distasteful. That’s not me.
For some unknown reason, I’m oftentimes more interested in experiencing a new taste sensation than I am about needing to be pleased by it. I’ve said many times, “This thing that I’m eating is very unpleasant–but oh, how interesting! It tastes awful, but it will sure make a great story!” I’m also known for accepting food challenges, like chugging a bottle of Tabasco, or winning the Blazing Challenge at BWW.
Anyone who knows me knows that I always strive for “the full experience.” Adventure matters more to me than pleasurable tastes in my mouth. I like surprises and trying new things. So at restaurants, I generally look for the most interesting thing on the menu — the more unfamiliar or extreme the better! Or I’ll randomly order “lunch #7” just to see what the waiter brings me.
When Cindy and I took our trip around the world last year to visit friends in Europe, Africa, and Asia, one of my side goals was to sample each country’s most exotic foods. Ever had African cow udders on a stick? How about Chinese pigeon heads (including the skull!)? Or Myanmar’s stinky fruit ice cream? Or fresh silkworms from the Chinese market? What about steamed pig fallopian tubes? Or Togolese goat head stew, including the snout, eyes, and brain?
I’ve eaten all those things and more, and the picture at the top of this post documents some of it! And with only a few exceptions I always choose to finish whatever I start to eat, regardless of how much I may or may not enjoy it.
So why am I telling you all this?
Not merely to merely entertain you, although I hope I made you smile! Not merely to make you feel better about your own less-miserable life! Not because I’m suggesting that you join me in my culinary escapades (I know you’re relieved to hear that!).
I share this because my peculiar attitude toward eating might actually provide somewhat of a metaphor for abundant living: we mustn’t let the tastebuds of our lives filter out everything we find unpleasant. Too often we allow our personal preferences to be the gatekeeper for what we allow in our lives.
Too often, we allow our personal preferences to be the gatekeeper for what we allow into our lives.
We’d better not parent that way! Obviously, the early stages of parenting require us to give up our preferences. Like it or not, new parents’ lives revolve around their helpless infants and, of necessity, these parents give up their own preferences–after all, who really desires to change that poopy diaper! Yet as the kids grow older, parents may be tempted to reclaim their preference fulfillment, demanding that their kids accommodate their parental wants. Wise parents know which preferences are worth battling over and which are not.
We’d better not live that way in marriage! Cindy and I were having a discussion about marriage the other day with a young couple. As we shared about components of a strong marriage, we reflected on the importance of each spouse letting go of their preferences for the sake of unity. (You can imagine how much Cindy does that with me all the time!) In a good marriage, there is a determination that I will remain committed to you even when you don’t do all the things I would prefer. There’s also an attitude that says, “ I don’t need you to fulfill all my wants and preferences.”
We’d better not practice self-care that way! How ironic it is when we allow our preference for comfort-in-the-present to sabotage our future well-being. Immediate gratification keeps us from the growth and development that only comes through hard-earned exercise, healthy eating, soul care, etc.
We’d better not select a church that way! When choosing a church, shouldn’t we look for a church that challenges us, awakens us, and confronts us where we need it? If we choose one primarily because we are comfortable with everything (location, music, preaching, facilities, decor, etc.) might we unwittingly be limiting our own spiritual development?
We’d better not determine our calling that way! I get inspired by people who sacrificially give up their personal preferences on a daily basis to serve a higher calling. Teachers, social workers, medical practitioners, military personnel, volunteers, and others, challenge me to focus on the needs of others rather than focusing so much on my own wants. Think what kind of world we would have if no one was willing to give up their preferences to do such things for the sake of others!
We’d better not recast Christianity as a feel-good religion. The prosperity gospel portrays Christianity as if God is most interested in our comfort and pleasure. That is quite the opposite of what Jesus modeled and taught, in fact, he guaranteed persecution and suffering for his true followers. Ours ought to be the religion of sacrificial love, not self-love. I am impacted by contemporary stories of persecuted Christians around the world who are standing firm even while suffering for their faith. I admire missionaries who so readily set aside western comforts and conveniences in order to be ambassadors for God in faraway places. The Christian life was never designed to be easy or comfortable — at least on this side of heaven. Doing hard things is part of the package, just as it was for Jesus Himself.
I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have preferences or that we should seek out the way of suffering all the time. Pleasure can be a very good thing–indeed, God has designed us with natural desires, cravings, and sensations that must have been made for our delight. The very existence of beauty itself is an evidence of God’s creative goodness and love. Apparently, He delights in bringing us delight. The joys of life are little tastes of heaven and it seems right that we should embrace them when they come.
What I am saying is simply this: we mustn’t let our preferences have too much sway as we decide what to embrace and what to reject in life. In other words, “You don’t have to like it to eat it.”
In Togo, giant rats like this are a delicacy; this one actually cost $22, that’s more than the cost of a goat! However, to us, it was no delicacy! It tasted terrible; One small bite was all we could stomach! It’s one of the few things I couldn’t finish!