"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Sweet and Savory—Risking the New and Unexplored

By Micky Wolf

Sweet: pleasing to the taste; mediated especially by taste buds at the front of the tongue
Savory: having a spicy or salty quality; pungently flavorful
[Merriam-Webster Dictionary]

Many folks have made New Year Resolutions.

As many have not.

I don’t know where you stand on making lists of any description or length, but I have lived long enough to engage in both—and maybe not surprisingly, found both to be less than effective over the long haul.

So I’m doing something a bit different this year. It all began with a delicious meal, a mere three days into 2015, courtesy of a special couple. Here’s the kicker—my beloved and I threw all gastro cautions to the wind (no, don’t go there) and, following several gentle invitations over the months, took them up on their offer to try genuine Indian cuisine. While we had gingerly tasted of this culture before (yes, pun intended), we decided to jump in, all knife, fork and spoon fulls. Spoiler alert—the meal was wonderful, an experience to repeat for sure.

But that’s not the end of the story. It’s only the first chapter, and one I intend to live out as fully as possible as the days unfold between now and the end of the year.

The in between? Making the choices, one after the other, that will require me to enter into new and unexplored places—of my life, and of those situations, circumstances and events involving people God places on the path with me. Why? For starters, a recommitment to discovering God in all things, not just those things that seem appealing, or comfortable, or quantifiable in some way as being successful.

If following this course of action as a result of pondering and prayer seems to be the way to go, what will that mean? And beyond that, why does it matter?

Including the fullness of flavor in the mix…

Who among us doesn’t enjoy the sweet stuff of life? The warm, the comfortable, the soft, the fuzzy, the pleasant, and so forth.

Savory, on the other hand, adds deeper dimension and layers to the tasting process. These flavors are experienced from the mid to back sections of the tongue. Seems an insightful metaphor in growing in spiritual maturity.

And yet, any cook worth their salt and pepper knows you need both. Indian cuisine makes this point in the best possible way. Sadly, had my beloved and I refused to take a risk and explore the new, we would have missed a great opportunity to enjoy a palette pleasing array of flavors. We would have continued on our safe and merry way, convinced these dishes are mostly fiery, mysterious concoctions of spices so intense as to annihilate the senses. Not true by any measure.

It’s not about goals…

Well, at least in the beginning.

Some folks consider written goals fundamental to achieving success, and that’s fine. But what if being successful is primarily based on how we identify our goals? Furthermore, what if we discover the way we identify goals is rooted in staying within the parameters of our feeling safe zone?

Feeling safe and living safe often boil down to “doing today what will afford the least opportunity for feeling uncomfortable—physically, emotionally, or spiritually”. Don’t’ get me wrong. Being wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove (Matthew 10:16) have extraordinary value in the Christian life. At the same time, neither of those concepts promises this process will be mostly sweet.

Nonetheless, here’s where the rubber meets the road: if we persist in setting goals based on what feels good and logical (even reasonable), we may miss the great opportunities and open doors God longs for us to enter through—those involving risk, something new, experiences unexplored.

It’s not that we won’t experience success. Or accomplish certain good goals. Or be faithful servants and loving souls. It’s that a life focused on tasting the sweet—to the neglect of the salty or savory—is one destined for a certain blandness, a certain flavorlessness that does not reflect the fullness of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

While I can, with the deepest sense of peace and joy, know that God (in all things) works in the midst of the sweet experiences of life, I can also confess there is a time and season to taste and savor beyond what is comfortable on the front of the tongue.

Why it does matter…

What it means to take a risk is different for each of us. It’s also true that taking a risk to step into the unknown—the new and the unexplored—may likely serve as the gateway to important and meaningful discoveries, individually and corporately. The risks you or I choose to take may not result in life-saving vaccines, unilateral peace treaties, or world peace. And yet we are called to be the salt—the savory presence—in the time and place God has chosen to set us.

I don’t know what the outcome will be of following this (new) course of action, of choosing to take more risks. There’s also the distinct possibility of needing to be reminded of this commitment in the coming weeks.

Nevertheless, there is one thing I can be certain of—to continue on with the alternative will likely be a recipe for feeling comfortable and safe. Sounds like a good idea. Which usually means (for me anyway) probably more about what I want than what God desires.

Do I favor the sweet to the neglect of the savory? Why?

How do feel about taking a risk with something new and unexplored?

What risk is the Divine inviting me to take? Now? In this moment?

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