You’d think after ten years, I’d have figured out a better way. You’d think that I’d have learned how to motivate, how to cajole, or how to simply avoid the conflict altogether. But no. Ten years into this thing called parenting, dinner time can still be a battle.
Not every night, of course. The nights I serve up macaroni and cheese, chicken, or pizza, all is well and all manner of things shall be well. But the nights we’re broadening our palate, the nights my husband and I enjoy a grown-up meal or attempt some exotic recipe, these nights devolve into protestations, stalling, and outright depression. I can never guarantee precisely how it will all go down–which food will be the stumbling block or which child will stumble–but I have noticed a pattern.
It begins with quiet resistance, moving the food around on the plate, sad looks, and barely uttered sighs. Perhaps all the other portions are consumed, leaving behind the one offending pile of vegetables or curry. My husband and I will have finished by this point. We will be ready to clear the table or have dessert, ready to move on. But instead, we stay. We stay for round two. We stay to encourage, to confront, and eventually to demand. We set timers, appeal to their sense of gratitude, and promise no other food until morning. Sometimes this works; sometimes they take us up on the offer.
After ten years, I should know better. Yet, each time, I continue to be surprised.
It’s not that I’m unsympathetic. I understand their resistance to foods they don’t like. I understand that we all have our own set of preferences. I understand that my husband doesn’t like olives or carbonated drinks. But what I can’t fathom is why my children resist foods they have never even tried. How can they know they don’t like something if they’ve never even tasted it?
So while I’m willing to go through the process with them, go through the process we must. We insist that they taste. We insist that they try. We insist that they open themselves up to possibility.
It starts with a gathering of courage, putting a tiny bit on the spoon, hesitantly raising the spoon to the lips, closing the eyes, and tasting… And it. is. good. The eyes open; relief and surprise wash over the face. “It’s good. No, mommy, I mean it’s good. I’m not just saying that. I really like it.”
After ten years, I should know better. I should know that my children are no different than the rest of us.
It is human nature to doubt. It is human nature to question. It is human nature to think the worst. Of course, I won’t like that food. Of course, I won’t like that change. Of course, I won’t like what God is offering me. As I wrote recently at a colleague’s blog: “We are helpless, flawed people and our inability to trust God is just one expression of this.”
In some sense, we are all small children sitting at a banquet table with sorry looks and unuttered sighs, pushing the food of the gods around in circles on our plates.
But instead of demanding that we clean our plates; instead of setting timers and threatening no more provision, God simply invites us to “taste and see” (Psalm 34:8) He invites us to test Him—to hesitantly raise the spoon to our lips, to close our eyes, to swallow.
I wonder if we expect more of each other than God Himself expects of us. We want robust expressions of faith and confidence in God’s plan. We want to see His children gobbling up the food that is put in front of them–whether it is a unforeseen trial or simply a change in life circumstances. We want to hear bold proclamations of faith that “all things work together for good.”
But God knows better. He remembers our weakness (Psalm 103:14). He knows we are but dust. And so, the perfect Father opts to go through the process with us. Instead of demanding mature, perfect faith, He simply says, “Taste and see. Taste and see that I am good.”
And so, slowly, hesitatingly, we obey. We open ourselves up to the possibility that His ways are beyond ours (Isaiah 55:9). We open ourselves up to the possibility that a good God might just give good gifts (James 1:17). We open ourselves up to the possibility that the Lord is indeed what He claims to be (1 Peter 2:3).