Taste and see that the LORD is good. (Psalm 34:8 NLT)
Imagine you’ve been invited to Thanksgiving dinner, and you don’t have to cook or bring one thing. As you walk into the house, you’re greeted by the alluring aroma of turkey and dressing and all the trimmings, along with a variety of delicious desserts. Everything is spread on a beautifully decorated table. As your host ushers you to your place at the table, your mouth begins to water and your stomach rumbles uncontrollably. After a blessing is given, the dishes are passed around the table so that all can help themselves. But as each dish comes to you, you pass it on to the next person without taking any for yourself.
Your plate remains empty as you sit there, watching everyone else eat. When your host entreats you to fill your plate and enjoy the delicious foods, you reply that you are enjoying them—they look and smell wonderful, and that is enough. “Besides,” you say hesitantly, “I believe this food was prepared for everyone else but not for me personally. To think that would be presumptuous and self-centered.” With great sorrow, your host responds, “I made this meal for each of you, and I took care to include your favorite dishes. It was a labor of love for you, and it would fill me with great joy and delight if you would taste and see how delicious it is.” Still, you politely decline, convinced the meal is meant for others but not for your personal consumption. You tell yourself you are content just to sit at the table.
This scenario seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? Why would someone attend a Thanksgiving meal and refuse to eat anything, including his or her favorite foods? How could someone accept a personal invitation yet believe the meal was not intended for them? Yet, we do a similar thing when we fail to “taste and see” God’s goodness and love in the many gifts God so generously provides each day. We might notice them and, on some days, even feel gratitude for them; yet often we stop short of actually “tasting” them—receiving them as expressions of God’s very deep and personal love for us.
God, who is love, showers us with “love gifts” every day—gifts of creation, other people, and experiences—all so that we can know God’s love and respond in love. A delicious meal. A beautiful sunset. A bird’s song. A loved one’s embrace. An encouraging word. A moment of joy with a child. A needed talk with a friend. A kindness from a stranger. An answer to prayer. An unexpected opportunity. And a million other things. Saint Ignatius, who lived in the 16th century, said that "everything God has created [and is continually creating in the moment] is a gift presented to us so that we can know God more easily and return God’s love more readily."* So, failing to receive these gifts as expressions of God’s personal love for us means we’re missing out on the sweetness of an intimate love relationship with God. We’re essentially taking ourselves out of the reciprocal flow of God’s love. When this happens, God is displaced in our lives and we become attached to lesser things—things that can never fully satisfy, things that leave us wanting. We tell ourselves that this is enough—that we’re satisfied to just sit at the table—but God has so much more for us.
Everything God has created [and is continually creating in the moment] is a gift presented to us so that we can know God more easily and return God’s love more readily.
In this season of giving thanks, I invite you not only to notice and appreciate God’s many gifts but to actually “taste” them—to receive and savor them as love gifts meant just for you. Pay attention to how God is speaking to you personally through the ordinary gifts of your daily life, and then consider how you are being invited to respond in love. You can do this at the end of the day or in the morning, reflecting on the previous day. Simply take a few minutes to recall the gifts and loving moments of the day and then reflect, prayerfully listening and talking with God. This simple practice, called the Examen, will deepen not only your relationship with God but also your relationships with others as you become more and more aware of God’s loving activity in the details of your life and choose to respond with love. It cultivates a beautiful, ongoing “love loop”—God loving you, and you responding by loving God and others. I encourage you to give it a try for thirty days and see what happens. Remember, you’re invited not just to sit at the table but to feast on God’s never-ending gifts of love.
*Adapted from The First Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, paraphrased by David Fleming, S.J.
Hi, I'm Sally!
I'm passionate about connecting with God and connecting with people, offering spiritual encouragement and companionship. I'm so grateful to be on the journey with you as we walk with God together.