Don’t Eat the Whole Buffet

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LESSONS FROM MY FATHER #3

A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means.  This is an obvious lie.  Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is….  A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.  That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness.  They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.  ~C.S. Lewis

I love going to restaurants, especially a fine restaurant.  I love the whole experience that comes from that brush with the “upper crust”, – escorted to a table especially reserved for me, “May I help you, Sir?”, cloth napkins, three forks, multiple plates,  words on the menu that I cannot pronounce – it is all an adventure that makes me wonder how many ways can I embarrass myself today.  Apparently, a Shrimp Cocktail does NOT contain alcohol!

As a kid, however, it was only special occasions that would warrant a “chef-cooked” meal.  Granted, most of the time, it was Burger Chef (for the younger reader, just think Burger King).  It wasn’t that mom was a bad cook; actually she was very good.  It was just the wonder of choosing anything you wanted – as long as it was on the kid’s menu – and then having it served to you freshly wrapped in paper, accompanied with an embossed paper napkin.  Since dad’s income came from an offering plate, this was as fancy as the parish pocketbook would allow.  Every once in a while; however, we would get to go to an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet.  Oh, I can hear the angels singing now – a smorgasbord!  I remember the first time we drove the 27 miles to Mt. Pleasant to the Sweden House Smorgasbord Restaurant – this was a major road trip!  Most of our excursions outside of our small central Michigan village would take us all the way to Clare – a whopping 5 miles away.  We would only take this trip two or three times a month to get the things we could not get in our own town – like Tough-Skin jeans from Sears & Roebuck!.  So going to Mt. Pleasant was a rare treat and always meant a chance to “eat out”.  As we ambled into the Sweden House, Dad would use his preacher voice and say, “You can have anything you want but you have to eat everything you take.”  No problem!  Dessert bar, here I come!  There were piles of food from which to choose.  The only problem was the tiny plates!  But then I figured it out – it was unlimited plates, too!

The 27 miles home always seemed like 150.  Every pot hole and speed bump would cause our bloated bellies to preach a series of sermons on the qualities of self-control and restraint.  But for a kid, this form of food-frenzy was a small glimpse into heaven.  As an adult…well, let’s just say that I believe the word “Smorgasbord” is Swedish for “more gas on board”!  I don’t want to mislead you…large quantities of food are always a welcome attraction; I just prefer to have it brought to me rather than picking through the remains of the community serving dish.

I suppose if dad were trying to teach a lesson at this early stage of my life, it would have been easy enough to say, ‘don’t be a glutton!‘  That lesson alone is valuable and still one in which I tend to get a near failing grade.  Dad let our stretched stomachs speak for themselves but he would came back to this buffet banter when I hit high school and he used it to drive home another valuable pearl of wisdom.

Food for Thought

I like to think of myself as an even tempered soul.  I try to get the whole story before I become totally agitated.  I attempt to weigh the situation in terms of its true importance, not the importance that emotion tends to add to most heated moments.  This is now (and it’s my totally unbiased opinion of myself).  High school was another matter!  Everything was important and every situation was designed intentionally to ruin my world.  On one particular day, I was grousing about all of the worthless things that school tries to cram into our heads – math I’ll never use, history I won’t remember, books that would make better bricks or door stops.  I was walking through the kitchen and I must of have said something about teachers spewing propaganda or something like that because it was then that dad opened his can of “whoop…”ah…wisdom…yea, that’s it, wisdom!

“Mike, you have to get what you can and ‘can’ what you get.  The rest you leave behind.”

From there, he launched into a story about his college days.  There was something about a college professor, a bad experience and a mentor or something that seemed important to him.  All I remember was what came after that short sermon in the kitchen.  Dad drew me back to the smorgasbord and said:

“When you go to an all-you-can-eat buffet, you don’t have to take everything you see.  You pick and choose those things that you like or need and leave the rest for someone else.”

He then began to explain that when I got to college and then throughout the rest of life, I would disagree with many things that the professors, bosses, supervisors, etc… were trying to “shovel” but there would always be a pearl of truth or wisdom that I could use to help become the person God intended me to be.  This is not to say that you can pick the truth you want to believe but you can select from the opinions that are placed before you.

I think our Heavenly Father has a similar way of working in our lives as well.  We come to the Lord and say, “Lord, I need comfort from this trial.”  He gently says, “You will receive comfort, but first you need correction!”  Or we bring to Him our guilt and shame and expect that He will provide punishment but He offers forgiveness and mercy.  Jesus offers us what we need, not what we want.(Matthew 11:28-30)  There is a reason He says, “Come to Me all that are weary and carry heavy loads and I will give you rest.”  Notice Jesus does not offer to take the load.  He offers to give us rest so we are able to bear the load.  Remember what else Jesus told his disciples?  “My yoke is eliminated and My burden is removed.”  No“My yoke is easy and My burden is light!”  Being a Christ-follower is not a cake walk.  It is the constant growing process of being offered a wide variety of what life has to offer but then choosing only those things that please Him.

I won’t pretend to have controlled my urge to stuff my gut with every item on the menu but I will admit that dad had a good point…when I hear the preacher or the teacher telling me what he thinks God wants me to do, I go to God’s Word and find the pearl of truth that He wants me to learn.  Nothing else is important – only His plan and how I respond to His prompting.

 Open Mic: Share your thoughts

  1. Where do you go in God’s Word to find truth?
  2. Share an example of how God has used someone to point you to the truth of God’s Word.
-Michael G
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