The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him: What are you doing, my son? What are you doing, son of my womb? What are you doing, son of my vows? It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink…
Proverbs 31:1-2, 4
Preparing Royal Palates
Is there squash in this, Mom? I hate squash. Do I have to eat it?
You do, Son. Two bites. The Tastemaker holds firm and holds her breath.
Yuuuuuuck. It just looks so gross.
Tastemaker looks away and waits. Finally, at the sound of a slurp, she exhales.
Not as bad as I thought, the young prince admits, and dips for spoonful two.
Royalty holds itself to a higher standard, which may or may not include squash soup. In any case, I doubt Prince William slugged six-packs of Surge or Prince Harry survived on Hershey’s. And it is ours to raise sons and daughters-not of any king or queen-but of the King of kings. To be royal tastemakers.
Parents, and aunts and uncles and friends, we are influencers. We called to help train children’s tastes. And not just any tastes, but discriminating tastes, and pure spiritual flavors.
Because it is not for kings to go with the flow. Those of royal blood don’t play fast and loose with food and drink. What’s acceptable for some, wrote Matthew Henry, would profane their crown, by confusing the head that wears it; that which for the time unmans them does for the time unking them.
Even kings must be catechised and princes and princesses must be taught.
Healthy Tastes Don’t Just Happen
One friend tells me her girls actually request squash soup and my five-year old nephew inhales carrots with hummus. But in our house raw veggies routinely reappear in shriveled, dried form in wastebaskets. Hummus migrates there, too.
I’m not above it. I was an Esau. In grade school I’d trade my mom’s hearty whole-wheat bread for soft, squishy white fluff. It used to be Pop-Tarts and Twinkies and Fruit Loops. Now it’s arugula with walnuts and Stilton and Greek yogurt with berries and seeds.
Tastes do change. But how?
In “Healthy Eating: can you train yourself to like it?” Guardian reporter Amy Fleming answers that question, with Yes! But they must taught. We need training to love what’s good. We didn’t-and our kids won’t-just “grow into” kale and cauliflower.
The holy grail, surely, is to learn to love health food more than junk, thus avoiding the binge-fast vicious circle. We know that most of our food likes are a triumph of nurture over nature, with the exceptions of an innate fondness for sweet, and distaste for bitter.
Most of our “real food” preferences are learned, Fleming concludes. So how do we teach them? I’m right with you in the trenches, beside boys slurping Spaghettios with Ninjago comic books outspread. I’m still learning.
But I won’t go silent into that junk food night. I am that mom who offers snap peas and stuffed peppers and serves salad and lasagna. I want their tastes to shift not to drift, so I pull hard on my Mom oars. I’ve got princes in the boat.
It’s all of grace, for sure, the acquiring of nourishing spiritual tastes. God gives life and new life. He made our mouths and gives us new tastes (Ephesians 2:3-5, 2 Peter 1:4). So desire for healthy soul food is way more than nurture. It’s being given a new nature.
PREPAring Palates For New Tastes
But there are means to put us on the path, to PREPAre the way for healthy new tastes. Means are unavailing unless the Lord blesses them. So we pray God will incline hearts to fear his name, and PREPAre our tastes so that healthy food tastes good.
Diet experts assure us that the best way to increase consumption of veggies is to have them washed and chopped and out. PREPAration clearly counts.
Teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:7
The familiarity that comes from repeated exposure does not breed contempt. Have them keep trying it, and they just might like it. One study showed that after nine or ten tries, most kids started to like the new veg. Some even said, the liked it “a lot.” So keep packing the peapods and peppers. Keep your library basket filled with good books.
Proximity primes the palate.
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes….By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:8, 11
Another study found that healthy tastes can be nurtured. When kids were first fed sweetened broccoli, the kids liked the taste of plain broccoli more. Bible Lite is sugar: Gabe loves his Minecraft Bible and Sam, his Power Bible. Before the reward is intrinsic, you might sweeten the deal.
My parents had me memorize the first chapter of John in fifth grade. I don’t know if they asked me or told me to do it, but I do remember the $10 bill that came later. Jesus used reward to motivate. (See that in Matthew 6). And there was that mysterious appearance of big bills in Bibles at church. If that motivation isn’t above our Lord, it’s not above me.
We all long for hearts that crave broccoli without the sugar. God willing, that’ll come. Until then, Lego sets and candy corn motivate.
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. Philippians 3:17
Don’t minimize the power of example; for better or worse. Bad company corrupts, and set an example for the believers.
For a decade I’d watch I’d watch Jim shake red pepper all over his pizza. So often I got curious gave it a try. Now a pizza’s not a pizza without a smattering of crushed red pepper. My folks read the Bible a lot. Always, it was on the breakfast table. And my grandparents too. Whenever we had breakfast at Grandma and Grandpa’s, Grandpa would open that special Bible drawer the Amish built on the side of the table and take it up and read a Psalm while we watched the steam rise off our oatmeal.
Now guess who opens a Bible at the breakfast table?
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things out of your law. Psalm 119:18
Pray. Pray for your princes and princesses. And pray for your yourself and your friends. Pray for yourself. Pray that God will open our eyes to see and our tune our spiritual tastebuds to delight in what is nourishing and good (Ephesians 1:18, Luke 24:45).
Samuel’s words to the people of Israel are for parents and grandparents and for aunts and uncles, too:
Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. (1 Samuel 12:23)
Pray God gives our kids new tastes and desires. Pray that they will not love the world, because without vigilance, and even with it, they’ll snack on the world’s fare. Love of the world creeps in.
5. Avoid Snacking
It’s not technically part of PREPAre. But it’s the last tastemaker tip. Because media molds our spiritual tastebuds. Don’t expect that a life filled with the world’s snacks —Fortnite and with its movies and Minecraft and music-will develop more discriminating tastes.
If our kids, and if we, constantly snack at the world’s buffet they won’t magically hunger and thirst for righteousness when they turn 18-or 38. They still might not. God must change their tastes. But, tastes are formed—I know from my experience with Stilton and Italian roast, with arugula and Shiitake and Kalamata – over time. Craving good Kingdom food doesn’t just happen.
Why don’t we hunger more for the living water and ever-filling bread? It could be that we’re already full. Maybe we’re sated by Facebook and Youtube and Netflix. If we’ve been grazing on pretzels and chips all afternoon, we won’t have room for salad and soup tonight.
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says that a diet heavy with media influence decreases her hunger and thirst and love for the things of God.
But then she takes us tastemakers to task.
If you want your children to cultivate a hunger and a thirst for righteousness and for the Word of God, you need to then be asking, “Am I allowing their lives to be filled with the influence and influx of worldly or secular media that may be robbing them of spiritual appetites?”
I’m raising princes. Well-adjusted, popular, happy kids is not this mama’s endgame. Don’t get me wrong, those would be great. But, even more than those things, I want my sons to have healthy appetites. I want them to taste and see that the Lord is good and that his Word is the sweetest delight they could ever taste. Because they, and we, are called by his name. So let’s eat like it.
Because we are royalty. We are sons and daughters of the King of kings.
Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.