Losing The Sense Of Taste
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? Luke 14:34
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8
On one of our trips to Kenya, my wife and I thought it would enhance the trip and be an encouragement to the people we were with if we brought my father along with us. At the time he was seventy-eight years old and had an artificial hip joint and a touch of glaucoma. I think my mother thought we were nuts, considering the distance, the conditions and the overall stress of an out of country experience. We were gone for roughly two weeks and the whole endeavor went great, though it took some adjusting along the way.
I remember one of the meals we had with a distinguished group of Kenyan pastors and church leaders. We sat at a long banquet table and were served a very nice meal. My dad loved to eat and so he was more than interested in the cuisine and the variety of foods presented. One of the foods brought out that my dad immediately put on his plate was what he thought was a banana, but was actually a plantain (a cooking banana). I remember his look of delight as he took his first bite and how quickly his disappointment became evident. He turned to me and said very quietly, “This is not a banana.” He then proceeded to eat the rest to be polite, but he didn’t indulge further. He told me later that the plantain reminded him more like a very bland and tasteless potato. He had expected the sweetness and flavor of a banana, but found the plantain a poor substitute. Though it may have been integral to the Kenyan diet, my dad preferred to let the plate pass the second time around.
It is my understanding that God created life to be far from tasteless. The life of God manifested in creation was meant to be full and flavorful. But too often I find myself dissatisfied with my experience of life and keep trying to discover those things that will somehow satiate my longings. When I find myself in times of desolation I am noticing the effects on my taste for life. I long to find the flavors of meaning and purpose. I long to find those experiences that make me feel alive and connected. But so much of those things I counted on before can become bland and tasteless. When food seems bland the typical answer is to add a bit more salt. In life, it is often the answer to just increase the intensity of the experience by doing more, adding more, or taking an experience to the extreme. Our taste buds for life are calloused or dead from the constant over-stimulation so we need more seasoning just to feel normal. It feels or looks a lot like addiction to me.
Possibly one issue is that I have expected the various experiences found in this world to be enough. But as good as this life is, maybe the point of God’s message to humanity is that we have settled for something less than the best experience of life we were intended to enjoy. When the Psalmist says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” He is not inviting us to taste all the other options, but to indulge in the one option that is truly good, which is God Himself. My tendency has been to rely on God to provide the diet I like from the gifts of this world rather than trust God to give me the diet I need, which is Himself. All the other things God allows me to experience in His goodness were never meant to be a substitute for the enjoyment and nourishment that comes from knowing and being with Him. When I find myself less and less satisfied with the diet of this world I may need to consider the diet that Jesus intended when He said, “I am the bread of life.” His very person is the food meant to sustain and satisfy me. Anything less will leave me wanting. The richness of life is best experienced when I taste continually of the One who is eternally good.
If you are experiencing life as bland, tasteless, or mundane it may be time to consider a different table to eat from and a different diet to enjoy. It may be time to set aside all the various good gifts of God from this world and focus on the goodness of God Himself revealed in His own Son, the bread of life. May you begin to experience this day the richness of the cuisine God has provided and allow Him to nourish and satisfy you with His own goodness and love. Just remember, the plantain will always taste bland compared with the sweetness of the normal banana. Don’t settle for a life that has lost its taste. God intends much more than that for you and me.