My family had just gone out to eat at Govinda’s, an Indian restaurant in the nearest city. After we enjoyed the buffet, we browsed the gift shop that adjoined the restaurant. Never bored where books were at hand, my eyes skimmed the shelves, until I heard my dad and the restaurant owner having a polite but somewhat tense discussion. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I wondered. Dad told us in the car on the way home that the owner had handed him a copy of the Bhagavad Gita and tried to convince him to consider Hinduism.
My dad was philosophical about this exchange. “It’s like a cupcake,” he said. “When you eat a cupcake and you think it’s really great, you want everyone else to try it too. That’s where people come from when they’re telling you about religion. They’re trying to share something good with you.”
Teenage me was a little shocked at this. I knew my father, Jewish by birth, had been evangelized by not a few of his business clients over the years. Mostly, this consisted of a matter-of-fact declaration that he was going to Hell unless he accepted Jesus into his heart. Their out-of-the-blue efforts had made him feel disrespected and devalued as a person, left without any chance to share his own experiences, feelings, and needs. So I couldn’t help but admire his reaction to another attempt, his statement that all these conversations were just an attempt to share joy, to give someone else a delicious taste of happiness.
Now, ten years since that night at Govinda’s, I’m tempted to share my own source of sweetness. I’d be lying if I said that’s not partly why I write here. My dad’s analogy was apt: my relationship with Jesus is like a rich dessert that begs to be shared with those I love. I write to invite those who hunger for more, whose mouths long to lose their bitter taste, to take a bite. Taste and see.
My dear friends who don’t call yourselves Christian, I hope you all can be as gracious as Dad was that night. Whether or not you bite, I hope you know my flawed words are driven by a desire to share what is good out of love.
If you don’t want a taste, I don’t blame you. I know, from my family’s experience and also my own, how quickly what was meant to be sweet can become bitter. How someone can say they want to share good news with you and you wonder why this good news sounds so bad. Why, if this person comes to share a great love with you, their words can be so unloving, so angry and hateful.
I’ve been there myself. And I want to say sincerely, I am sorry. Sorry that we Christians don’t live up to our words, that we’re so often slow to listen, quick to condemn, quick to get angry. There is no excuse. I’m sorry.
Honestly, it took a lot of courage for me to write the first entry on this blog. There were months of stops and starts. I didn’t want to be that person, someone who sees people as projects, who reduces the world to black and white, who’s too busy talking to listen. But I realized that if I love friends and family and strangers, I have to be real with them. I have to share what I love. I have to say in all honesty and joy, “This cupcake is amazing! If you want, you can have a bite!”
So thank you for bearing with me and my cupcake obsession. Maybe my particular recipe will never tempt your tastes. Maybe sweetness and fulfilment will find you in some completely different way. God is big, and the banquet prepared for us is inexhaustible. I just want to thank you for sitting at the table with me and sharing its delights.