Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tasting Our Words

When my kids were little, in an effort to teach them the impact of their hurtful words, we would have them taste vinegar when they said something unkind to one of their siblings. After all, it seemed a better option than washing their mouths out with soap, a common practice during my childhood! The whole idea was to provide them with a physical sensation that matched the emotional hurt caused by their verbal jab. (Now that our kids are grown, they rib us mercilessly over the “tasting-vinegar-for-sour-words” discipline. Yes, they are all in counseling!)

The experience of tasting our words, however, is not only a punitive consequence imposed by a parent. It can be an experience called lexical-gustatory synethesia, an involuntary condition where a person hears a word and immediately experiences a taste. For example, when some people hear a word like “war” or “murder” or “rape,” it elicits a bitter, putrid taste in their mouths. They literally “taste” their words.

Even several authors of Scripture use "tasting" as a sensory metaphor to experience the savor of God. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”(Psalm 34:8), David wrote. “How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey.” (Psalm 119:103), the psalmist declares. To taste the sweetness of God and his word is an invitation to experience God, to allow the flavor of his goodness to fill your mouth and nourish your soul.

This morning, I experimented with this idea of tasting the goodness of God. I was drawn to a name of God, El-roi, the God who sees me. Hagar named God, El-roi, after she ran away from Sarah and was found by the angel of the Lord in the desert. (Genesis 16:13) As I spoke the name (silently) over and over, paid attention to each syllable and pronounced it deliberately with my tongue, I found my heart begin to worship. From deep within, I became aware that I needed to know that God sees me. For several minutes, I repeated El-roi, savoring its meaning.

If you would like to experience “tasting and seeing that the Lord is good,” here are a few suggestions:

  • Select any name for God. (Elohim, El-roi, Yahweh, Lord, Jehovah Jireh, El Shaddai, Good Shepherd, Jesus, etc.) Choose one that you are drawn to whether you understand why or not. Try it out, say it a few times. Make sure it is the best one for you at this time.
  • In prayer, begin to mull it over, repeating it slowly, either silently or aloud, whichever is most comfortable.
  • Say the name with each breath you take until you have developed a comfortable cadence.
  • Slow down and taste each syllable. Allow the name to lift and open your heart in order to taste the goodness of God.
  • Continue to repeat the name, especially when your mind drifts. Enjoy being in God’s presence, responding to his goodness, being nourished by his love.

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