“O taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34: 8
I am reading Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now during my morning meditation practice. He teased his readers with this reminder that Psalm 34: 8 reads, “taste and see” and just to make sure his point was not missed he added, “It doesn’t say ‘think and see.’” He knew who he was talking to—largely Western rationalist people who have cut their teeth on scientific inquiry and who come to know God through the intellectual rigors of systematic theology. Although I would say that we are more “think and do” people than “think and see.”
I know I am guilty. I loved theology in seminary. In fact it was the intellectual rigor of the classes in the Reformed tradition that drew me away from the more emotionally fed Baptist Sunday services of my college days.
So I will admit that this language of “taste and see” in the psalms has me a bit stumped. I have been around Presbyterian circles and Presbyterian people long enough to know that if you want to explore a new idea or imagine a new ministry the first thing you do is create a committee. We are “think and do” type people. Get a few good heads together, share ideas, think about the possibilities and the drawbacks and then put the plan into action—think first, then do.
What do good Presbyterians do with the psalmist’s advice to “taste and see.” It doesn’t sound like a divine plan; it sounds like a divine sampler. It doesn’t sound like a whole-hearted commitment to do something; it sounds like a stick-your-big-toe-in-the-water, wait and see, half-commitment.
But there has to be something to this. I don’t think it would have survived nearly three thousand years if people had not found some juicy morsel of truth in it. Taste and see. What is it we “think and do” people need to learn from this?
I wonder if this “taste and see” approach to experiencing God’s goodness has to do with those arenas of life where thinking doesn’t do much good. I am an avid cyclist and I can tell you that most people don’t learn how to ride a bike by reading a manual and thinking and coming up with a riding plan. No, learning to ride a bike is a trial and error endeavor where a child gets to taste both the dirt below them when they fall and the rushing wind that massages them as they fly.
Kissing is a “taste and see” activity (literally!). Whoever learns to kiss by developing a “think and do” plan? No, a good kisser is not usually the person who follows the kissing manual, but the person who, by trial and error, learns what they like and what they don’t like and perfects the art one kiss at a time.
I know that that this “taste and see” line is just three words and I am spending a lot of words exploring the implications of a life of faith that emerges more out of this than out of our usual “think and do” approaches. I am doing so not only because it has puzzled my usual Presbyterian way of thinking (there, I said it again!). I am doing so because I think this simple shift from thinking and doing to tasting and seeing gives us an image for how we are going to negotiate our way through this uncertain time.
It is the reason that I have used the image of holy breadcrumbs as my blog title to describe the process of our unfolding vision. I am convinced that our vision is not going to emerge out of a set of well-thought out plans, but from a series of experiments and experiences that we learn from and grow from. Seeing the way ahead only one breadcrumb at a time. Trial and error. More failures than successes. We may have to “taste and see” our way into the future.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good,” writes the psalmist.
I believe we are going to have to learn to become good kissers.
Good kissers don’t think and do.
They taste and see.
Today’s moral: More kissing, less thinking!
More actual living. Less planning how to live.
So interesting that you zeroed in on this, and I so loved your reflections. The contemplation group I lead runs in four month sessions. The first gathering of a new session is called a “tasted and see” to allow new people to come try it out before deciding whether to commit to the session. I recognize that folks might not get the “flavor” of the group by talking to me about it or reading about it.
However, as used in the Psalm, the message is a bit different. It doesn’t say taste and see IF the Lord is good. It says taste and see THAT the Lord is good. The outcome of the taste test is a foregone conclusion. As you said, we can’t think our way to this experience of divine goodness. We swallow it into our very being.