I like flavor. I like adventurous dishes. I like taking ordinary ingredients and allowing them to get to know each other, teaching them to dance so that taste buds rise up in spontaneous applause every time a bite waltzes by. I like the crack of freshly ground pepper, and I like sprinkling salt from ten inches up, like a pinch of fairy dust over a magical brew. I love the smell of warming olive oil because I know what’s coming next. If I am alone (and my husband is nowhere around), the gentle pungent aroma of that forbidden vegetable will soon be dancing a sultry tango across my kitchen cabinets.
He won’t tolerate onions. He doesn’t like the smell. He doesn’t like the taste. If he knows they’re in his food, he won’t take a bite. He’s been known, on occasions when I have been found out, to mine them, one by one, banishing them to the other side of his plate. But, to me, no onions mean no flavor - just bland monotone dishes with no boogie at all. So, I get creative. I chop them very small. I whizz them in the blender. I disguise them as other vegetables. In short, I hide them. And apply lip gloss before I serve them.
The truth is, I’m a hider. I hide my feelings. I hide my opinions. I hide my onions - the bits of me that are too strong to take without other ingredients tempering them into something more mellow. When there are things which are bitter and distasteful that rise to my surface, I hide myself. From God.
It must run in the family because it’s the first thing Adam and Eve did when they sinned. They couldn’t face the fact that they had disappointed the one Being in all existence who had provided for them every possible good, and so they crouched in the bushes, naked and painfully aware of their shame. They knew that hiding was futile, but they did it anyway.
When I was a small child I used to hold my index finger across my eyes and tell my mother, “You can’t see me!” Hiding from God is a bit like that. I can ignore Him when I have sinned, pretending that He doesn’t notice; I can convince myself that He wouldn’t want me around anyway, or that we’re both better off if we don’t see each other for a while. The problem is that my childish attempts to block my shame from His vision are embarrassingly pathetic, and all I’ve really accomplished is blinding myself to His beauty.
For years, any burdensome sin would set me off on downward spirals of guilt and hiding that could last weeks or more. Finally, I realized that God wouldn’t publish something if He didn’t mean it, and so one day when I read, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9), I decided I could either believe it and get on with my life, or continue to wallow in guilt and isolation, hiding behind my finger. It was the “Buck up - Confess - Be Forgiven - Move on - and - Don’t Do it Again” message that I needed to hear. It’s been working for me pretty well since then.
This morning that all got a bit rocked. I’ve been reading through the Psalms (which is a dangerous thing to do if you’re not looking for a little soul revolution). King David was a man who knew the highest heights and the lowest depths of faith. He was the boy who brought down a giant with a slingshot, who sang lullabies to a king bent on destroying him; he was the man who loved his best friend like a brother, invited the handicapped to eat at his royal table, won great battles, and built an unstoppable nation. He was also the man who hid among his enemies, pretending to be insane; he got a married woman pregnant and killed her husband. His own sons tried to kill him. Through the pages of the Psalms, in song after song, he bares his heart with ragged honesty, crying out in agony and adoration for the God he knew was his only hope.
The words he spoke in the middle of Psalm 40 caught me off guard:
“Do not withhold Your mercy from me, O Lord;
May Your love and Your truth always protect me.
For troubles without number surround me;
My sins have overtaken me and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
And my heart fails within me.
Be pleased, O Lord, to save me;
O Lord, come quickly to help me.”
King David was overwhelmed by the magnitude of his own sin. He counted the number of his sins as more than the hairs on his head. He knew he had screwed up; he openly admitted it and then described exactly how I feel when I sin against the One who has provided me with every possible good - blinded and overtaken. My heart fails within me.
But, King David did not do what I instinctively want to do. He did not hide. He did not stoop to subversion, misdirection, or flattery to conceal what he knew was there. He did run, but instead of running away from God, like I am inclined to, He ran towards God. He acknowledged his wrong and then begged God to come even closer.
What a beautiful picture of trust. In spite of how messy or broken or sinful he was, David trusted that God still loved him. He didn’t hide because he didn’t believe his value was based on his performance. He believed that God meant what He said, and if God said that His love endured forever, then His love endured forever - no matter what. David could handle paying the consequences for his sin (“troubles without number surround me”), as long as God was there to walk through them with him. He acknowledged his guilt, but he wasn’t crippled by shame. His only thought, his only desire, was to be as close to God as possible.
God won’t tolerate sin. He doesn’t like the smell. He doesn’t like the taste. He’s been known, on occasions when I have been found out, to mine sin, one by one out of my heart, banishing it farther than the east is from the west. No matter how small I try to chop it, or blend it, or disguise it, He knows my sin is there. When left on my own, it does nothing but bring on tears. When I let go, offering it up to God for forgiveness (not as part of a formula, but because running to Him pleases both of us) He takes what was once bitter and redeems it into a holy dance of grace sweeping through my heart. And all the cells of my soul rise up in “Hallelujahs”.
I wrote a poem once to describe how I felt about some people that I knew and loved and worked with. I wonder now if God was speaking it to me....
I love you, my onion
And with every peeling layer I cry
Sweet and salty tears
But, I don’t mind
Because you are the flavor of my life.
May we flavor each other’s lives, as God calls us out of hiding into His great and glorious dance....