My dad once had the misfortune of finding a Hostess Ding Dong buried in the pantry when he was looking for something to snack on. He unwrapped it, took a big bite, and – instead of chocolaty, creamy goodness (if you can say such a thing about a Hostess Ding Dong) – he experienced a sensation he described as biting into a dried out, moldy, old shoe. He gagged for an hour, fighting back the urge to throw up. Until the day he died, he had lost his appetite for the things – even the fresh ones on the shelf.
Something good had gone bad, and it ruined it for him.
Things go bad all the time. That casserole dish that’s been in the fridge since Christmas (come on, admit it). The leftovers from that restaurant you visited last week.
But I wish the things that go bad were limited to food. Relationships go bad. Jobs go bad. Living situations with roommates go bad. Things that start good, sadly, can often end in disaster. Even church.
The problem with things going bad is that it sours our taste for the good that is still out there.
A bad experience can lead us to believe that all future experiences might be bad. That all jobs suck. That all relationships will break our heart. That all people of faith will hurt us, judge us, or betray us.
So we refuse to take new chances. The taste of the past is so sour, that we cannot even imagine the sweetness of what was once good.
And let’s face it: The past is not always so “past.” The sour taste can still follow us every day. We taste it in random encounters with people from a time of pain. We taste it in seeing others in happier situations. Worse, maybe our past reaches out and attacks us head-on. Maybe someone says something that hurts us – an accusation, a rumor, or even a threat. Then we experience the rotten flavor all over again.
So the sour taste remains.
I wish I could have simply reminded my father that all Hostess Ding Dongs have not been sitting in a pantry for 3 years (Honestly, I didn’t know those things even could expire in the first place). But he was done with them.
Likewise, I wish I could convince some of my friends that churches aren’t all painful places. I wish I could convince others that – when it comes to relationships – all people are not selfish or manipulative. So we sit idly with a bad taste in our mouth. We try to live with it.
And as we sit there fighting back the urge to vomit from the taste of our experience, we might refuse to realize that the only way to learn the sweetness of something new again is to expose ourselves to the risk of sourness all over again. We have to dare to open ourselves back up. There is no other option, unless we want to live a life starving ourselves of the things we once held dear.
But this is where the sour taste does not have to be the enemy that keeps us from moving forward. We are no longer as naive as we once were. We can now take smarter risks.
Surely, with risk there is always the chance that you will bite into something that will make you want to vomit. But as in real life, we can read the signs. We know not to drink milk past its expiration date (you can trust me on this one). We know moldy bread should not be eaten. We know that sushi should be fresh (Duh).
The same should be true for our life experiences. In fact, the sour taste can serve us well as we move forward. In our jobs, maybe we experienced something like the bitter taste of micromanagement or under-appreciation. But now, knowing that taste, we now have potential to make better choices in our next jobs. In our relationships, maybe we faced manipulation and/or even some sort of abuse. And though the experience may have brought us pain, we ought to be wiser in whom we choose to open up to and let into our hearts. And even when it comes to a bad church experience, we should now know that words like grace, love, community, and acceptance are not catch phrases to be thrown around lightly, but should reflect a way of life – one that we can seek with more discernment in the future.
Knowing the rotten taste should not keep us from taking risks; it should rather be seen as an opportunity for wisdom so we can take smarter risks.
Yes, risk is scary – especially after pain and disappointment. But taking a risk – knowing that we are now a bit smarter and wiser – may let us experience the sweet tastes life has to offer us all over again.
My child, eat honey, for it is good,
and the honeycomb is sweet to the taste.
In the same way, wisdom is sweet to your soul.
If you find it, you will have a bright future,
and your hopes will not be cut short.
– Proverbs 24:13-14