Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Connoisseur of Christianity

I heard a story once from a missionary who was returning to the US after being in Mozambique for an extended time. She said the culture shock didn't fully sink in until she took a trip to the local grocery store. As she looked at the racks and racks of choices just for bread, she became paralyzed. She was unable to make a choice. Just days ago, the only bread she had was the loaf she bought several times a week from the local village woman. Now she could get it with sesame seeds, whole wheat, rye, white, enriched or all natural, etc.

We North Americans live with such abundance at our fingertips. There's so much to be thankful for, but there are trappings that come with the plentiful supply.

When something is readily available, it's becomes easy to get picky with how you like it. Coffee is a great example. Ten years ago, people would have thought it absurd to pay close to five dollars for a made-to-order cup of coffee. Today we think nothing of it.

It's entertaining to sit in a Starbucks and listen to people's orders for their drinks. One of my favorite quotes about this topic is from the movie "You've Got Mail". Tom Hanks' character is writing to Meg Ryan's character about people who order at Starbucks. He says:

"The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino."

As funny as this quote is, it contains some truth that applies to other areas of life besides coffee ordering.

We live in a region where Christians are free to worship. Churches abound. Books and CDs and DVDs are simple to access. We do not lack for spiritual food. But in this abundance, it's easy to become picky eaters. We start deciding why we don't like certain churches, or don't enjoy the company of certain Christians the same way we choose our favorite brand of cereal.

I'm not knocking discernment. We need it more and more. The core truths of Christianity should never be watered down or compromised. This is something different.

Sometimes Bible believing Christians can lose out on great fellowship because they let their personal preferences get in the way.

When I was a toddler, I was a VERY picky eater. The only thing I would consistently eat was strained banana baby food. My Mom was just thankful I was eating so she regularly gave it to me. When she took me to the doctor for my check up he was horrified because my banana diet had turned my skin yellow! He (not so nicely) told my Mom she'd better find a way to get me to eat a balanced diet for my health's sake.

I admit, as I am living in a largely Christian area, I find myself picking and choosing a little too much in the area of my spiritual food. If I'm left to my own devices, I would probably still eat a spiritual diet of lots and lots of the same thing. God help me.

I want to be a vibrant, well-rounded Christian who can appreciate the many different giftings and expressions within God's people and His kingdom.

Growing up, my family would gather together every Thanksgiving and the table was loaded down with food. My eyes were set on the dressing, my favorite. But along with this wonderful concoction there were other dishes that I did not like as much. My grandma put a tiny bit of these foods on my plate. "Try just a bite," she said. "You never know, you just might like it."

I think I'm going to take my Grandma's advice in the area of my spiritual food as well. Who knows? I might just end up finding something I really like!

God, help me not reject what other Christian brothers and sisters bring to the table. Give me your grace to receive what they have and in doing so become more well-rounded and healthy in my own spirituality. Amen.