Beit Gamaliel

The confluence of knowledge and faith

Childhood Cravings

I am not a picky eater. I will eat anything not nailed to the floor. However, I have been around long enough to discern the difference between a good crème brulee and a bad one! As a professional musician, I once had the wonderful privilege to play piano at the Café Noir in San Pedro, California, home to renowned French-trained Chef Eli Tordjman. He called me Maestro. I am not sure he actually knew my name. However, three nights each week I knew that I would be eating some of the BEST food in all Los Angeles!

California has PERFECT weather. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I would don my black tuxedo and bow tie, complete with cuff links and a cummerbund, mount my 1995 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, and make my way through traffic to the restaurant where I would park my bike on the sidewalk right in front of the huge bay windows in the front. Peter, the owner loved my custom HD and insisted that I park it right at the door. I would take my place at the eight-foot Yamaha concert grand and begin my first two-hour set of standards from the days past—Moon River, Moonlight in Vermont, Fly Me To the Moon, Irresistible You, and every now and then Someone Saved My Life Tonight by Elton John. When things got warmed up, the diminutive chef would come approach the piano with the ghost of a smile, dressed in his pure white chef uniform, complete with the puffy hat, “Maestro, play ‘O Sole Mio’!” I instantly knew when I finished this set, that he had something delectable for me.

My tastes have changed drastically over the years. However, there is a taste that I crave—a recurring palate that returns to me from childhood. If I think about it long enough, I can smell it in the air. On the long, cold nights in our Minnesota home, I remember the aroma of my mom’s chili simmering on the stove for what seemed like an eternal afternoon. There was something more profound to the dish than just the simple banter between the sweet and spicy. There exists an emotional connection between me, my childhood, my family, my childhood home, and chili.

Yesterday my teenage son left his lunch on the counter. This morning I reminded him that he needed to take his sandwich.

“I don’t like it,” he whimpered.

“Then make a bologna sandwich!,” I responded.

He said, “I don’t like the bread,” sheepishly expecting a tirade from me.

It is a tough economy. Like most families we cut where we can. I have resorted to buying cheap bread over the past few years, nothing horrible, just a simple wheat sandwich loaf from the local supermarket. But THIS week, there was a special on the GOOD bread! You know, the really expensive name-brand loaf bread with the buttered split-top! Buy one, get one free! I couldn’t resist. I bought two loaves without a second thought. I actually thought that this would be a wonderful treat that the whole family would savor! But I heard it clear as a bell: “I don’t like the bread!”

Thoughts raced through my head on how I could help my son appreciate the texture, nuances, suppleness and refined taste of this fabulous bread. But just as quickly as my mind raced, I came to the end of my thoughts realizing that nothing I could say or do would break my son’s affinity for cheap bread.

It occurred to me that we are all that way. There is something that resonates deep within us to connect with our tastes from the past. Just recently I had a conversation with a coworker about my love for Sugar Babies candy, a childhood favorite. There is something about the tastes of our childhood that are indelibly etched into our minds and emotions. If we continually feed our children Spaghetios, Hostess cakes, generic bread and other cheap garbage, they will crave that cheap garbage the rest of their lives!

It seems to me that we have the same problem as children of God. None of us mind the diet of simple repentance, or concepts of grace and faith. But when we start getting fed things like regular church attendance, or tithing, or (forbid it!) observing a Sabbath day of rest, like fat little children, we wrinkle our noses declaring “that’s not my cup of tea.” It was the same problem in Hebrews. The writer of Hebrews finds that believers should have matured to the point of being teachers of God’s word, but instead they were still in need of milk, not ready for solid food.

For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Despite our desires to return to the tastes of spiritual infancy, to grab the spiritual Twinkies, maturing in our faith requires us to cultivate spiritual tastes, training our senses to discern good and evil. May we all, including our children, practice and train our senses to crave both good food, AND the good food of God’s word of righteousness.

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