What if God is like boxed mac and cheese?

A couple of months ago, we had a friend over for a play date. She and her mom had driven up from their house and were staying for lunch. We hadn’t seen them in a while, but the kids got along well.

I hadn’t been to the store and was a little low on groceries, but I had enough to make mac and cheese, a homemade way, with boxed pasta covered in a flour-butter-milk sauce with melted cheese. I told the little girl who was visiting that we were having mac and cheese for lunch, and she was super excited all morning because let’s face it, mac and cheese is a pretty great promise.

macaroni

Shannah Pace | Stock Exchange | http://www.sxc.hu

But when lunchtime came, she expressed disappointment about what was in her bowl.

“Mommy, I don’t like it!”

I can’t remember if she tried it, and really, it wasn’t my best effort at homemade mac and cheese. Fortunately, her mom came prepared with a microwavable bowl of the Kraft kind, and she ate that like a champ.

Nothing against boxed mac and cheese. I’ve eaten my fair share of that in my lifetime, and my kids like it when we have it.

Still, it’s not “real.”

We’ve been starting to make some changes in the food we eat and buy, opting for more “real” and “natural” ingredients. The coffee creamer I use is made with milk, cream and sugar. This revelation came when I bought some non-dairy stuff off the shelf at Dollar General, and I thought, “What exactly is this stuff?” The answer: a bunch of things mixed together to taste like creamer.

Our favorite ice cream maker has a new line of all-natural ice creams. One night last week I tried a salted caramel variety and I kid you not, it was like tasting ice cream for the first time.

I’ve been eating fake food for so long I’ve forgotten what real food tastes like. 

It might take some time for my palate to readjust. Or maybe not. Every summer I swear I’ll never eat another store-bought tomato when I’ve tasted the sweet juiciness of a homegrown one from the farmer’s market. Until winter comes and I want tomatoes and all I have available is the reddish, tasteless tomato-shaped fruit in the store.

Then I settle for something less than real.

And I fear the Church, and my faith, may suffer the same taste preference as our 3-year-old friend: We prefer the fake to the real because we don’t know what real is.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Words from a Psalm, and yet do I believe it? That God is good.

A member of the local Jehovah’s Witness congregation periodically stops by our house, mostly to talk to my husband, but since he’s not around as much because of his work schedule, I’m the one who ends up talking to him. This week, he handed me the weekly literature, which posed the question, “Is God cruel?”

“What do you think of that question, Lisa?” he asked.

“Oh, I don’t think God is cruel,” I said. And in my heart I added, He is far better to us than we deserve.

Words my head affirms but the truth is I have shaken my fist at God, doubted His goodness and demanded He do things my way. As recent as last week, I threw my hands up in the air and said, “Don’t You see what we’ve given up for You?”

As if God owes me anything.

Boxed mac and cheese is quick, easy and it tastes good enough to eat, even if it doesn’t provide much in the way of nutrition.

And sometimes I want a quick, easy faith that makes me feel all warm and cozy.

Not the kind that requires patience and preparation and that might be bland if I rush it and skip a step.

And sometimes God gives me what I want, but it leaves me feeling empty. Hungry for something more.

I think of the song we’ve sung for fun at camp:

I wish I had a little white box

to put my Jesus in

I’d take him out and kiss, kiss, kiss

and put him back again

Maybe it’s all fun and nobody takes it seriously, but I wonder how many of us have Jesus in a box and we only take Him out of it when it suits us? How many of us are living a faith that is only a shadow of the real thing?

And I’m not talking about not being saved or a member of the church or a faithful disciple. Even those who followed Jesus while He was on earth got it wrong, creating in their minds a Savior of a different kind.

I’m talking about opening the box and letting Jesus out, even if we’re not sure we’re going to like what He has to say or wants us to do.

Taste and see.

Yesterday was the Day of Pentecost, the day the church marks as the birth of a movement that would spread worldwide for thousands of years. The Holy Spirit arrived and Jesus was no longer limited to his earthly body.

The Spirit moves today.

But sometimes we put Him back in the box, choosing to believe only what is safe, comfortable and palatable.

What if we’re missing something?

Something real. Wholesome. And good.

What if I’m not really following Jesus at all but just a cheap substitute?

Taste and see.

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