When I went off to college, God’s providence led me to a church whose pastor was really good friends with the pastor of the church I had been going to at home. The pastor of the new church and his wife immediately “adopted” me and insisted that I have lunch with their family at their home every single Sunday. Now you have to understand something about this wonderful couple. “Lunch” on Sunday really meant a thanksgiving feast cooked entirely by the pastor’s talented wife. Every single dish could probably have won many culinary awards. No matter how stuffed we were however, we never said no to her desserts. You have never tasted a brownie until you’ve tried her homemade recipe. Even jello tasted like something fit for the angels. However, nothing prepared me for that one afternoon when she presented me her peanut butter pie.
Having had a particularly difficult week, I was looking forward to a little bit of respite in her home after church. With her two outgoing daughters and six energetic grandchildren, there was never time to nurse troubles or wounds for too long, so I welcomed the distraction. After a wonderful meal as usual, she brought out her peanut butter pie. I was pretty excited even though I had never had peanut butter pie because I do have a strange and intense love affair with peanut butter. However, the moment I tried my first bite, all time stopped. It was as if I was Elijah and had been taken to heaven on a chariot. All I could think of for the rest of the day was how divine the pie tasted. I was still tasting it hours later.
In the weeks that followed, something shifted in me when it came to her desserts though. No matter what dessert she brought out or how wonderful or delectable it was, I was never satisfied because it was not peanut butter pie. Of course I pretended to love every one and never said a word about my true thoughts, but I felt like my taste buds died. If she brought out the dessert and it didn’t look like peanut butter pie, I convinced myself long before the first bite that it wasn’t going to be as good and ate it mechanically just to be polite. Thinking back, I’m sure there were many wonderful desserts, but I didn’t care, because it wasn’t peanut butter pie.
I’m using this rather silly example to illustrate a serious and profound lesson that God just showed me today. For the sake of highlighting the lesson, I will generalize some of the details so that the focus is on what God showed me. The past couple of days have been pretty torturous as far as my emotions went. When I finally pinpointed a trigger, it came down to the fact that I didn’t think God loved me like my pastor and his family does. I complained that God couldn’t possibly be loving father inspite of what I wrote in my last blog because where my pastor would respond with kindness, all I felt from God was anger. When I finally stopped my tantrum to hear what God had to say, his answer blew me away.
“I’m not peanut butter pie.” He seemed to say. “I’m so much better, but you’ve already decided that I taste awful because you’re insisting that I have to be peanut butter pie in order to be good.” In other words, I was insisting that if God loved me, then he would love me exactly like my pastor and his family does. If it didn’t look exactly like that, then it wasn’t love. God was saying, “My love for you is so infinitely better and greater than anything your pastor or anyone else has to give you, but you refuse to taste it because you’ve already determined in your heart that unless it looks like what you’ve seen, it’s not love. What you’ve seen is meant to whet your appetite for more, not kill your taste buds for anything else.” When I finally decided to put away my peanut butter pie standards and taste his love, I did indeed find that it was more wonderful than the best peanut butter pie that anyone else could offer me.