We just spent a week with the grandkids. When it comes to food, they are just like mine were at that age. They prefer their oranges out of a can, their macaroni and cheese out of the blue box, their chicken cut into processed squares, and their potatoes long and fried. Forget the complex and strong flavors of Parmagiana Reggiano, feta, and blue—they want American cheese, thank you. And all their sauces must be sweet—about half corn syrup. True, these two enjoy olives—but they need to be canned and black. A strong, briny kalamata is summarily thrown across the table.
Children have immature palates. For the most part strong flavors are out and bland ones are in. Sugar, salt and fat make up their favorite seasonings. And it must be easy to eat. When you can barely hold a spoon and get the food on it and into your mouth, you prefer things that are solid without being hard and which fit the hand. We would never give a child a fresh artichoke to eat, with instructions like “Peel off the leaf, dip it into lemon juice and melted butter, put it between your teeth and pull it out of your mouth, scraping the good part off as you pull, then discard the leaf.”
One day they will understand the pleasure of different tastes and textures. Their palates will become educated to appreciate different foods and even different cuisines. Even the pickiest of childhood eaters usually learn as adults to eat new things, if for no other reason than to be polite or keep harmony in the home. When a woman spends hours a day cooking, she wants more than a grunt and food being shoved around the plate in an attempt to disguise the fact that very little of it was eaten.
But sometimes people become set in their ways. They decide they don’t like something, even if they have never tried it. They won’t entertain the possibility that their palates have changed, and so won’t keep trying things as they become older. When I was a child I hated every kind of cheese, raw onions, and anything that contained a cooked tomato. Now I eat them all. Imagine if I had never found that out. No pizza!
What about your spiritual nourishment? Are you still slurping down canned oranges and packaged mac and cheese? Do you still think instant mashed potatoes are as good as real ones, and Log Cabin as good as real maple syrup? What if the Bible class teacher taught a book you had never studied before? Would you learn with relish or complain because you actually had to read it instead of relying on your old canned knowledge? What if he showed you a different interpretation of a passage than you usually hear? Would you chew on it a little and really consider it, or just dismiss it out of hand because it wasn’t what you already thought you knew?
Keith and I have both experienced complaints from people because our classes were “too deep” or “too hard” or “took too much study time.” Really? It’s one thing to have an immature palate because you are still a babe. It’s another to have one because you haven’t grown up in twenty, thirty, forty years of claiming discipleship.
The spiritual palate can tell tales on our spiritual maturity in every other area. Jesus expected his disciples to mature in just a few short years. “Have I been with you so long and you still do not know me?” he asked Philip (John 14:9). If we don’t know his word, we don’t know him. If we don’t know him, we have no clue how to behave as Christians.
An educated palate for spiritual food is far more important than whether you have learned to like liver yet. Become an adventurous spiritual eater. You will find this paradox: though you become hungrier for more, you are always satisfied with your meal.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:12-14.