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Taste the Soup
Taste the Soup

A man goes into a deli, orders the matzo ball soup, and motions the waiter back to his table.

"Taste the soup," says the man.

"Sir, is something wrong?" asks the waiter. "I can get you another bowl right away."

"Taste the soup," says the man.

"Sir, is there something you want me to tell the chef?"

"Taste the soup."

"Fine," says the waiter, exasperated. "I'll taste it. Where's the spoon?"

"Aha!" says the man.

Sometimes you have to do what's being asked of you before you understand why it's required. You have to be willing to taste the soup in order to discover the spoon is missing. In religious parlance: "Understanding follows obedience." It's an axiom every bit as true as it is vexing. Psalm 111 observes that "all who follow [God's] precepts have good understanding"—not the other way around.

Lately, for me, the command to "taste the soup" has been about attending church. Trouble is, I just haven't felt like going.

I've been sliding into pews (or modern equivalents) from infancy; my vocation has taken me to hundreds of churches around the world. I've met some of my dearest friends and endured some of my darkest betrayals in youth rooms, foyers, and sanctuaries. I've cried, sung, prayed, committed, disconnected, recommitted, scribbled sermon notes, doodled, been wounded, been healed, encountered the Mystery, and dozed off—sometimes all in the same service.

There are seasons when Sunday can't come soon enough. The gifts church has given me are too numerous to list.

But there are also stretches of disillusionment. Times when the songs that once ushered me into a profound awareness of God's presence seem suddenly schlocky and manipulative. Mornings when I can't find anyone I know during the "greeting" time, and a previously cozy ...

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hide thisSeptember September

In the Magazine

September 2012

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