Recently I made some chocolate peanut butter cookies, which are Tom’s favorite. I started them early in the morning and had several trays of them cooling when Tom got up. He picked one up, tasted it, and said “These taste funny.” Not really the first thing I wanted to hear about these cookies.
Rev Karen Graham, pastor of Lakeside United Methodist Church, told a story that helped me understand my hurt response to Tom saying the cookies tasted funny. It is an old middle-eastern story and I couldn’t find a good reference for it. Many people quote the story but not the source. Here is the story.
A young man was roaming the desert and came across a spring of crystal-clear water. The water was so delicious that he filled his leather canteen to the brim so he could bring some back for his tribal elder. After a four-day journey, he offered the water to the elder who took a deep drink, smiled amiably, and thanked him for the excellent water. The young man returned to his home with a happy heart.
Later, the elder let another person taste the water. He spit it out, saying it was terrible. Apparently, over the four days in the old leather canteen, the water had become stale. The man challenged the elder, “Master, the water was awful. Why did you pretend to like it?” The elder replied, “You only tasted the water, whereas I tasted the gift. The water was simply the container for an act of loving kindness.”
When Tom said the cookies tasted funny, he was tasting the water, not the gift. And I was hurt. Later, I found out that some of the cookies – about 20 of them – did taste funny. Almost a bacon flavor. I have no idea why one tray of cookies out of the 10 trays I made tasted funny. He made a valid comment when he said the cookies tasted funny.
But, in thinking about the cookies and the story about the water, I wonder how many times I’ve tasted the water instead of the gift. When have I been unappreciative of the effort that someone put into a gift chosen with love and care? Unfortunately, I think I probably do it on a regular basis. I’m sure there are plenty of times I didn’t fully appreciate a gift from Tom. For my birthday, Jackie got me the National Park Trivia Game. It is a great gift, but we already have it. Did I express my appreciation for the thoughtfulness of the gift?
As we head into this season of giving, I challenge you to taste the gift. Appreciate the thoughtfulness of those around you. And taste and see what God has done for and given to you.