The world has slipped you culinary diagrams instead of food. It counts on your palate being not only wooden, but buried under ten coats of synthetic varnish as well.
O the humorless neatness of an intellectuality which buys mass-produced candlesticks and carefully puts one at each end of every philosophical mantlepiece! How far it lies from the playfulness of Him who composed such odd and needless variations on the themes of leaf and backbone, eye and nose! A thousand praises that it has only lately managed to lay its cold hand on the wines, the sauces, and the cheeses of the world! . . . Man invented cooking before he thought of nutrition. To be sure, food keeps us alive, but that is only its smallest and most temporary work. Its eternal purpose is to furnish our sensibilities against the day when we shall sit down at the heavenly banquet and see how gracious the Lord is. Nourishment is necessarily only for a while; what we shall need forever is taste.
That’s what fasting restores — a sense of taste. Instead of numbing the senses with manufactured carby fullness or corny sweetness, fasting reminds our tastes buds what food is. And you can taste again.
With this latest stint of this particular Lenten discipline, I’ve had to cut back more strictly for a brief time. I won’t go into the details because I think it’s gauche. It was just for twenty-four hours, and then a lowly carrot broke the fast. I have never tasted a better carrot in my life. It was marvelous. Words can’t describe the taste.
That feeling of raw-carrot-as-ambrosia is the same way I felt reading Galatians in the Message for the first time:
12-13My dear friends, what I would really like you to do is try to put yourselves in my shoes to the same extent that I, when I was with you, put myself in yours. You were very sensitive and kind then. You did not come down on me personally. You were well aware that the reason I ended up preaching to you was that I was physically broken, and so, prevented from continuing my journey, I was forced to stop with you. That is how I came to preach to you.
14-16And don’t you remember that even though taking in a sick guest was most troublesome for you, you chose to treat me as well as you would have treated an angel of God—as well as you would have treated Jesus himself if he had visited you? What has happened to the satisfaction you felt at that time? There were some of you then who, if possible, would have given your very eyes to me—that is how deeply you cared! And now have I suddenly become your enemy simply by telling you the truth? I can’t believe it.
17Those heretical teachers go to great lengths to flatter you, but their motives are rotten. They want to shut you out of the free world of God’s grace so that you will always depend on them for approval and direction, making them feel important.
18-20It is a good thing to be ardent in doing good, but not just when I am in your presence. Can’t you continue the same concern for both my person and my message when I am away from you that you had when I was with you? Do you know how I feel right now, and will feel until Christ’s life becomes visible in your lives? Like a mother in the pain of childbirth. Oh, I keep wishing that I was with you. Then I wouldn’t be reduced to this blunt, letter-writing language out of sheer frustration.
21-31Tell me now, you who have become so enamored with the law: Have you paid close attention to that law? Abraham, remember, had two sons: one by the slave woman and one by the free woman. The son of the slave woman was born by human connivance; the son of the free woman was born by God’s promise. This illustrates the very thing we are dealing with now. The two births represent two ways of being in relationship with God. One is from Mount Sinai in Arabia. It corresponds with what is now going on in Jerusalem—a slave life, producing slaves as offspring. This is the way of Hagar. In contrast to that, there is an invisible Jerusalem, a free Jerusalem, and she is our mother—this is the way of Sarah. Remember what Isaiah wrote:
Rejoice, barren woman who bears no children,
shout and cry out, woman who has no birth pangs,
Because the children of the barren woman
now surpass the children of the chosen woman.
Isn’t it clear, friends, that you, like Isaac, are children of promise? In the days of Hagar and Sarah, the child who came from faithless connivance (Ishmael) harassed the child who came—empowered by the Spirit—from the faithful promise (Isaac). Isn’t it clear that the harassment you are now experiencing from the Jerusalem heretics follows that old pattern? There is a Scripture that tells us what to do: “Expel the slave mother with her son, for the slave son will not inherit with the free son.” Isn’t that conclusive? We are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
You can taste the freedom in those words. When you strip out the carby fullness and the corny sweetness we were fed so long. When you scrap off the ten coats of abusive varnish that encrusted our souls . . . when just read the Words, you see Jesus. That’s Who you can taste. That’s the feast.