He literally gagged on the green bean.
No joke. He put it in his mouth and began convulsing.
What do you do with that?
My folks were the “you have to try a bite of everything” parents. It didn’t matter what it looked or smelled like, you tried it.
My children have been subjected to the same parenting philosophy. “Try it. You might like it.”
So, the green bean went in…and the the green bean came out. I wanted to be mad, to point out how ridiculous this all was, but how do you tell a child they should like the taste of something they simply don’t like?
Now, this was a few years back (obviously we all still remember the incident well), so I’ve been a little surprised to find my child randomly asking to sample a bit of this or that. We’ve been offering things, but this is a new development. The child asking is vastly different from the parent suggesting.
I’m confident one day green beans may get their shot again.
These thoughts are on my mind today as I think about the church I serve and the people who are that church.
How many of us grew up with a “taste” of church that left us gagging? How many have this reaction to church today?
It would be easy for me to begin thinking of all the ways we could make the church more palatable. One friend adds a ton of sugar to green beans…I tried it, don’t really like it…my kid still isn’t eating green beans. Some folks put those dried onion things and cheese on green beans. Some almond slivers. Some various spices and sauces. Some throw in the one ingredient sure to make everything better…bacon. But when you come right down to it, green beans are green beans. You can’t change the fundamental nature of the vegetable.
This is true for the Church. We might have different “flavors” of the local church, but at its heart Church is about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (or Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, if you prefer) and what happens when people encounter the living presence of God. And I’m aware some folks begin to quiver, the bile begins to rise, there is a physiological reaction, when they experience church.
We could dress it up, but folks have to want it for themselves. We slather it in programs and great music and inspired preaching, but people will ultimately have to decide if they are ready to respond to God’s grace (maybe through the programs, music, preaching, etc.). We sometimes try to sneak the church in coated with sugar, but they’ll soon discover…
Grace isn’t cheap.
Sacrifice is difficult.
Disciplines are challenging.
Loving is complicated.
My kid hasn’t asked for green beans yet. Still we serve them regularly. They are available. They are right there for the asking.
His tastes are changing and perhaps he’ll wonder why we like green beans so much. He’ll remember his aversion to them, but perhaps he’ll decide to give it another go. He might become the new spokesperson for the green bean growers of the world. Maybe. Maybe not. It’s largely up to him. All we can do is show the example and offer the veggies. And if he were to discover he likes green beans, say as a topping on ice cream, we’ll have the opportunity to try his way of enjoying green beans. We can’t say we don’t like it, if we aren’t open to trying it.
I’m thinking church might be a bit like this as well. Live it. Make it available. Allow folks to get a whiff of what’s cooking. Maybe they’ll find themselves hungry for God again. If and when they do, let’s make sure we have the feast ready. And when they suggest green bean ice cream, I pray we’ll all share a bowl.
Life is better together,