A few weeks ago, someone posed a question on Facebook, asking what the worst thing people had ever eaten was. Immediately, the post was filled with a plethora of comments, each detailing horrors endured through family dinners, casseroles-gone-wrong, and potluck mishaps. The largest cluster of comments, however, had to do with one particular dish: tomato aspic.
Have you ever had tomato aspic? If not, you should feel glad… you should feel very glad.
My own experience with tomato aspic goes back roughly 15 years. To be fair to all who love the dish, it should be noted that aspic is often viewed as a delicacy, reserved for the most special of occasions. That was definitely the context in which I had it. See, it was made for me when I first met the grandparents of the woman I would later marry. My wife’s grandparents have always held a special place in her life, and so meeting her grandmother and grandfather was an important step in our developing relationship. On the grandparents’ side, having their granddaughter bring over the romantic interest in her life was quite exciting for them. And what do you make on such an important event? Well, tomato aspic, of course!
Now, I am an adventurous eater, and one who likes a wide array of cuisines, but I am particularly sensitive to texture. Mushy or gelatinous foods rarely sit well with me. I have a hard time muscling my way through Jell-O, so the unholy lovechild of Jell-O and cold, gloopy, tomato-soup did not bode well for my taste buds. Yet there I sat, at the dinner table, beside the woman I wanted to marry, and across from two of the most important people in her life, with a congealed mass of tomatoey awfulness set before me. Did I mention that it was topped with a heaping spoon of mayonnaise?
To this day, over 15 years later, tomato aspic takes the prize of the worse thing I have ever eaten. But eat it I did. After all, what was I to do? I was a guest in this house, and I had been taught that, when a guest, I should be on my best behaviour. On this particular occasion, it was even more important that I be well behaved and make a good impression. These were people I would hope to consider family in the near future. Furthermore, it was clear that my wife’s grandmother spent a great deal of time preparing for my visit—drinks were poured, appetizers were prepared, the table was set with the good dishes, a fancy dessert had been made. Thus, my role in that moment was clear; I was to be the consummate guest: polite, appreciative, and grateful. So with all the strength I could muster I smiled after every bite and told them how lovely everything was.
So why this rant about tomato aspic? Well, one of Jesus’ more well-known statements is,
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20)
We hear this scripture, and may even picture what that might look like. Jesus politely knocks on the door of our lives, loud enough so that we may hear it, but soft enough as to not to bother anyone else; he will then enter the house politely and marvel and how in order everything appears to be. He may even praise us, saying something like, “My, I love what you have done with the place!”
I know, it sounds silly, but behind this is a deep question we would do well to ponder. How often do we want the presence of Jesus in our lives to take the form of a mere house-guest? We want Jesus to be polite and grateful, a person who smiles and tells us that everything is lovely, even if it is not. Jesus, like any guest in our home, should be on his best behaviour, not upsetting anything that we have prepared or created. A critical look, the suggestion of change, the pointing out of something not quite right, these are all behaviours not befitting of a guest.
Of course, the thing is, Jesus doesn’t actually want to be houseguest; he wants to be Lord of the manor. He knocks on our doors, not to come for a visit, but to come and take possession. He wishes to rule, to be in charge. This means that when Jesus comes into our lives, he will begin to point out things that need to be addressed. He will shine a light on dark corners and messy behaviours. He may even challenge us in regards to the things we have previously offered him.
When we open our lives to Jesus, we open our lives to his Word, to his challenges, to his calls. This can be an uncomfortable process, to be sure. But the question we must ask ourselves is this: are we willing to experience moments of discomfort for the sake of enjoying a deeper relationship? I could have rejected the tomato aspic. I could have taken one bite and feigned being full, or ‘accidentally’ spilled my water all over the plate, or tried to feed it to the dog—all these thoughts went through my mind. But I ate the uncomfortable dessert, in some sense joyfully, because of the deeper relationship that was being formed in my midst. I still don’t like tomato aspic, but I love what emerged out of it.
Will we do the same with Jesus? Will we be willing to let Jesus challenge us? Will we walk that uncomfortable road for the sake of the glory that awaits us, and the loving relationship that is found in the midst of it?
I certainly hope so.