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Monday, May 25, 2015

Bitter sets the teeth on edge

Have you ever bitten into a piece of fruit which had all the right coloring, smelled wonderful, but somehow was just too tart or bitter on the inside?  It is like the development arrested and the fruit never came to the place it was fully ripe.  Remember what that did to your teeth, tongue, and taste buds?  It was like an assault to them, right?  The bitterness lasted, even when you spit out the nastiness of the bite you took.  I have heard people describe the sensation as "having their teeth set on edge" by the bitterness of the fruit.  Some of us think the bitter taste will go away, but did you know that some people actually don't taste "bitter" as you or I do?  In fact, depending upon the level of dietary iodine we may ingest, we might all sense "bitterness" a little differently.  I wonder if this difference with how we "taste" the bitter we ingest in life is similar to how some may be deeply affected by the hurtful and bitter things another does, while others seemingly walk away pretty well unaffected by it?

Your words can be as satisfying as fruit, as pleasing as the food that fills your stomach. The tongue can speak words that bring life or death. Those who love to talk must be ready to accept what it brings. (Proverbs 18:20-21 ERV)

I think there are individuals who will take in a steady diet for a while, developing a "taste" for whatever it is they are given to ingest.  It may not have been pleasant at first, but the more they ingest it, the more immune they become to the unpleasant taste.  It is kind of like when you first tried the veggies on your infant child - they didn't like their taste as well as the fruits, so they squirmed away when you tried to coax them to take a little.  This is the principle behind the pediatrician telling you to start with veggies and leave the fruits till last. You are convincing them to "take in" what is the least pleasant for them, but which will give them the necessary stuff to help them grow up strong.  They might not enjoy the experience, but it is not going to kill them!

I wonder how many of us go through life "not enjoying the experience", but going through it anyway simply because someone has convinced us it won't "kill us".  The reality is that we are affected by all which comes into our lives - good, bad, sweet, or bitter.  We cannot deny the influence of each of these - some will be quite enjoyable and easily appreciated; others will be very difficult and quite difficult to see as valuable.  The times when bitterness is all around us, I don't think our reaction is much different - we just want to spit it out!  We don't crave the bitter taste - at least not at first.  In time, the more we taste the bitter, the more our taste buds will become desensitized to the bitter and will actually allow us to take it in without having that same "teeth set on edge" reaction.

What has happened?  We have been "desensitized" due to the frequency of the exposure to the bitter thing.  That which once caused us so much discomfort becomes something we are almost immune to now.  This is not always good, though, because those initial reactions of "rejecting" the bitter are there for a reason.  The bitterness of the unripened fruit is what should keep us from ingesting it and becoming ill from taking it into our bodies.  When we develop a tolerance to the bitter, we often go way beyond a place of safety when it comes to what we will allow into our lives!  Spiritually and emotionally speaking, the bitterness of life is going to challenge us a bit at first, but when we are continually bombarded by it, we cannot help but develop a "tolerance" to it.

Words might be bitter when first spoken, producing an immediate "ill-effect". In time, when we are constantly bombarded by these sheer volume of bitter and harmful words, or words which ought to produce a bitter taste within us, we might just begin to develop a tolerance to what we continue to allow to be taken in!  This is perhaps why God asks us to pay so close attention to the words we speak and those which we allow to penetrate our minds and hearts.  These very words can be the starting point for a tolerance to the bitterness of life - rather than us rejecting that which produces bitterness within, we actually find ourselves running toward it!  We need to weigh our words carefully and those which we will allow to "penetrate" our minds and hearts.  

We need to take a lesson from our initial reaction to the unripened fruit.  That bitter taste immediately makes us want to reject it and be rid of it as quickly as possible.  When we hear those bitter words of another, we also need to be as quick to reject those as something which is just not "fitting" for our lives.  Just sayin!