When Grace Tasted Like Auntie Anne’s Pretzel Bites

Pretzel bites

I don’t get it, Mom. Why did Aunt Danielle get Ella all those pretzel bites?

Ella* was the only one who whined and cried on the drive and now she walks out with the pretzel bites. Just her—no one else. That does not seem right.

I had to agree. As much as I talk about grace and write about grace and stand in grace, I was caught off guard by my sister’s grace.

Why Grace Doesn’t Seem Right

Because from our inside the van perspective, Ella seemed the least deserving of a treat. Oh sure, our drive home from northern Michigan was fraught: six hours of torrid air conditioning, a steadily deflating rear tire and horrid Chicago traffic that delayed potty stops were perfect fodder for any grumbler.

Still, Gabe didn’t grumble.

But when we finally walked into the Lake Forest Oasis, Gabe didn’t get pretzel bites. Ella did. In fact, of all six cousins, only Ella did. Aunt Danielle bought a big cup of Auntie Anne’s pretzel bites just for Ella. A big cup of grace.

So no, Gabe, it doesn’t seem right. Because at its core, grace is undeserved favor. It comes in so many transforming shapes. But it is never earned or deserved. Grace is not just for good people. 

We thing that God loves good people rather than that his love makes people good. But, as Jeremy Treat explains, the Bible is not a story of God looking for good people, but one of God redeeming sinful people.

Behold What Wondrous Grace

Behold what wondrous grace, Isaac Watts wrote. But did you know that you really can behold it? That you actually can see grace?

Did you know that you can see grace?

It’s not invisible like the wind. In Acts 11:23, we read how Barnabas arrived in Antioch and “witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all…”

Short rabbit trail, but I can’t help but think it is no coincidence that it is Barnabas, whose name means “son of encouragement,” who saw God’s grace. I’m not sure if it’s correlation or causation—if seeing grace makes one an encourager, or if encouragers simply see grace more clearly—but I know that encouragers see grace.

Regardless, sometimes we get to do more than merely see grace.

A Taste of a Pretzel Bite

Back in the Lake Forest Oasis parking lot, waiting beside a hot, disgruntled son, I shut my eyes and sighed.

You got it, Gabe. In a way, grace never seems right. Because we think of right as deserve. And we can never ever deserve grace. We can never ever earn the love of God. We can never ever pay our way to his favor.

We looked up. The cousins were coming. They were close enough to see Danielle’s grace. We saw the Auntie Anne’s salty nuggets in Ella’s hand.

Now Ella looked up at me, the selfsame aunt who had delayed our hot van from the potty stop that might have prevented her tears and distress.

Do you want to try one, Aunt Ab? She held out the cup. I took one hot, doughy, unmerited, unpaid for, and fully undeserved bite.

And it tasted all of grace.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions

it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:4-5

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Psalm 34:8

*Not her real name

“Good Grace Stuff That Didn’t Make The Cut”

  1. On “5 Misconceptions of Grace” and “3 Enemies of Grace”: Jeremy Treat explains, “Confusion results because we don’t get grace; meaning, we receive it but we’re not transformed by it because we don’t understand it.”
  2. On being a “Grace Amnesiac”: Paul Tripp says we don’t need more grace. Rather, we need to understand and live in light of the grace God already gave us. Tripp explains the phrase, “grace amnesiac.”
  3. On grace being more than undeserved favor. It is. But, as John Piper explains, biblically it is so much more, including “the action or the power, which produces real, practical outcomes in people’s lives.”
  4. On tasting grace when our taste is gone: I share some spiritual lessons from the time my taste died. One nugget: Appetite comes by eating. Even when God’s Word of grace doesn’t taste good, keep eating.

When Your Taste Is Gone: 5 Takeaways From Tasteless Days

Woman looking at cup no taste

Don’t know what you got till it’s gone. Taste didn’t come back easy. It took so long. 

Two weeks with a bad cold was long enough to remind me again of God’s fine sense of timing. My congested head had been dulling my sense of smell. But it was the exact day the 40 day sugar fast ended that my taste went away.

Poof. Gone. Taste no more.  Cravings for chocolate and ice cream suddenly melted away.

I was my own science experiment last week.

No taste was new to me. So new, and strange, I felt I needed to prove it was really gone. 

An onion may as well have been an apple or potato. I couldn’t taste- or smell- a thing. Fresh brewed, French roast coffee could have been weak breakfast tea. Nothing. Deep, clean minty fresh could have been baking soda Crest. Nada. But on a positive note, sweaty boys, bathroom smells, stinky feet also left no trace. 

Besides increased gratitude for a range of flavors and greater compassion for those with colds, my tasteless days got me thinking about spiritual tastebuds.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!  We know that verse. Some of us sing that verse. We love Psalm 34:18.  We might even fast to rouse our spiritual tastebuds.

But if we’re honest, sometimes the Lord and his Word do not taste good. We consume countless other things that dull our hunger for God.  Snacks, screens, and Facebook feeds can all take the edge off our hunger for the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

But that’s not the point. 

Many of our tastes for nourishing foods- salads not Skittles- are acquired. It might take 15 exposures to accept the new food. Like the time goes into a prepping a good meal, getting spiritual nutrition takes work too. We’ve got to grind the wheat, and cultivate our spiritual tastes.  

But that’s not the point either. 

5 Takeaways From Tasteless Days

1. Dangerous

I drank sour half-and-half last week. But my tongue didn’t tell me. My husband did, after I put it in his. Our senses warn of dangers like fire, poisonous fumes, or rotten food. Spiritual tastebuds alert us to soul dangers. We need God’s Word warns us about sin’s dangers (Psalm 19:11). A Puritan named Thomas Brooks wrote, “O God, put my tongue out of taste for the bait of the devil.” 

Oh that my tongue was as “put out of taste” for my own harshness and impatience with my sons as as my it was chocolate and ice cream last week. 

2. A Sign of Sickness

Families taste Raclette cheese around table
A liesurely Raclette dinner with family. The love was strong, the flavor was not.

Losing our sense of taste is a sign that we’re sick. If nachos were bland and even my brother-in-law’s storied  Raclette cheese tasted tame, it’s no fault of theirs. If God’s Word tastes bland and seeking him seems dull, our souls are sick or injured. It might just be a little head cold like I had last week, or more serious, like the head injury that stole tastebuds from my friend Bob.

But the same God that gave us tastebuds can heal our sick ones. So feed the cold.

 3. Keep Eating

Jonathan Edwards sad, “We must endeavor to increase spiritual appetites by meditating on spiritual objects.” Appetite comes with eating.  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). That’s not just at conversion. It’s true every day of our lives. When you get up in the morning, my guess is… you must get faith again. And you get it from the Bible. That from John Piper. My mind said soup and tea were good when I couldn’t taste them. So I sipped them until I could.

Faith comes from the Word of Christ. So even when we don’t desire God, we keep eating.

4. Gradual Return

Taste is not all or nothing. There were those in-between, lukewarm days when coffee tasted like coffee more than tea or water, but blonde could have been bold. When I could tell an orange from a lemon but not from a grapefruit. Don’t despise the day of small things. Rejoice in little changes. And keep eating. Spiritually too: Eat when you feel like it. Eat when you don’t feel like it. Eat the Word until you feel like it. 

Trust the process. Wait for the Lord to restore your taste, your joy (Psalm 51:12).

5. Restored By God

How are spiritual taste buds restored? Jon Bloom writes, The more you cultivate the habit of looking to and listening to Jesus, the more your spiritual taste buds…will be restored. We are transformed into people with  healthy spiritual tastebuds- who love good and spit out evil-when we behold the glory of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18). And  so we pray like Jeremiah prayed, “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.”

And God may be gracious to you and restore your taste like he did for me last week. Now l give him praise.

That, actually, was the point. 

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became a joy and the delight of my heart for I am called by your name.

Jeremiah 15:16