Our three kids vary pretty widely on what foods they enjoy the most.
Our twelve-year-old is very committed right now to barbecue chicken pizza. He’s at the stage in life where everything is almost always about food, and when there’s a barbecue pizza in front of him, he just kind of yawns and it disappears. Our nine-year-old daughter is more refined. She’s currently on the avocado bandwagon. Slice it, cut it, mash it, and put it on a piece of bread and she’s a happy camper. Our six-year-old breaks the mold with cucumbers. I’ve seen this kid on multiple occasions pick a cucumber and start eating it like an ice cream cone.
Though the foods they enjoy are different, they are pretty well united in what they don’t like. And near the top of that list for all of them is asparagus. That’s a problem for our family because both my wife and I really like asparagus, so it makes a frequent appearance at the dinner table. I know, however, as a dad, that if we are going to exercise our parental right to put that vegetable on the table, then it’s going to be a test of wills once it’s there.
Everything else on the plate will be eaten until there will be only the lonely green stalks left on three plates, and there it will sit. And sit. And sit. Until it starts to get cold and mushy, and the act of eating the asparagus will move from being distasteful to downright disgusting. At some point, inevitably, I will have to put my hands on the table, look them all in the eyes, and say clearly: “You will eat that asparagus.”
The only question at that point is who can play the waiting game longer.
In the end, though, our kids are compliant. They will eat it. Sure, it will be with plenty of drama as they force feed it to themselves one bite at a time, washed down with gallons of whatever drink they have, but after a couple of hours they will get it down. Because they are compliant, they will obey my command and go through the mechanics of eating what I tell them to eat.
But let’s say that one night – one asparagus night – I decided to change the game. So the table is set. The food is dispersed. And there again sits the asparagus on each of their plates. That’s when it gets interesting, because this time, I do not say, “Eat the asparagus.” Instead, I say, “Tonight, kids, I give you a new command. Love your asparagus.”
This is indeed a game-changer. And if the kids were self-aware enough to do so, the most honest way they could respond to me would be something like this:
“Daddy, you have given us an impossible command. If you told us to eat the asparagus, we can force ourselves into obedience. But you’re asking us for something much different than that – something we cannot do. So if you are going to give us this command, then you must also be able to give us new taste buds to go along with it.”
And so we turn now to Jesus, in Matthew 22, when He sums up the entire Law in just two, simple statements:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands. (Matthew 22:37-39)
If we are honest, we look to the Son of God with those same eyes of desperation I can see in my mind’s eye from my own children, and we say, “Jesus, you have given us a crushing command. We can go through the mechanics of so many things, but not this. We cannot will ourselves here. So if you give us this command, then we need a new heart to go along with it.”
To which Jesus smiles, and says, “Yes.”