This morning I had the joy of sitting down to breakfast with my two youngest kids. Together we shoveled down forkfuls of scrambled egg and toast. It was an incredible moment. This wonder is not some gushy sentimentalism in time spent with my little ones. I was amazed that I was feeding my kids eggs. Eggs that I had prepared and was now eating myself. There was a time when I diligently avoided eggs. I hated eggs. Scrambled or fried I wouldn’t touch them. Call them an omelet, soufflé or quiche, I wasn’t fooled—eggs repulsed me. Ghastly stuff!
This loathing was honestly earned. As a child, eggs were regularly eaten in my home and I had no strong opinion about their merit. All that changed at camp. It was the last day of camp and the kitchen had come up with a nifty solution for dealing with the week’s leftovers. Whatever had not been eaten was tossed into a big pot, drowned in gravy, and called stew. In my middle teens I was indiscriminate about what I put in my mouth, and thoughtlessly, I ate what was before me. My only hesitation came to the crumbling green lump on my plate, but presuming it was a potato that had been stained by the gravy, I ate it too. It was the remnants of a hard-boiled egg yolk.
The gastronomical impact of this meal was explosive. All who ate this ‘stew’ suffered the same effects as we travelled home. It was a horrid and humiliating experience, and all my loathing became identified with that floating yolk. Eggs became my enemy, and for the next decade I refused to have any dealings with them. Not only would I not eat an egg, I would not handle them either. I had a strict ‘hands off’ policy that I would not compromise. I resolutely kept my distance.
There are some people who hold the church with the same contempt that I had for eggs. A bad experience has sworn them off the people of God and they have no desire to repeat it. What they endured was so horrid and humiliating that they have spent years studiously avoiding any and all churches. They maintain a strict “hands off’ policy, and I sympathize with them completely. It’s a perfectly understandable reaction, but it’s not very reasonable. An isolated bad experience should never be turned into a rigid rule. What they avoid for fear of being hurt, leads only to greater harm.
I now eat eggs. My reversal did not come about through a reasoned process, but through the steady ministrations of my loving wife. Kathy did not share my loathing of eggs, quite the opposite actually, she thoroughly enjoyed them. And she routinely enjoyed them in front of me. Occasionally she would offer me a bite and I would faithfully decline, “No thanks, I don’t eat egg.” “Okay,” she would reply, “but you are really missing out.” And then happily she finished her meal. Gradually, I found myself believing her. My rule held but I came to suspect that I was missing out. After many offers and an equal number of rejections, I finally faltered and accepted. The omelet was exquisite!
We are saved by Christ to enjoy Him in community with other believers. Christian fellowship is a grace that God gives his children for joy and encouragement. Sadly, this society of Christians can hurt its own and these wounded sisters and brothers often become afraid of the church. Here in the ‘Bible belt’ there are many of these. Their reaction is understandable, even if it’s not reasonable. We, as the church, need to help them come back into the fold. How is this done? Lecturing them won’t work. Berating them will only add salt to their sores. A more gracious approach is advisable. We will only persuade the de-churched to reconsider their position if we regularly enjoy the church in front of them, and occasionally invite them to reengage. Gradually they may come to believe that what you have is enjoyable and their reluctance will falter.
Sooner or later, they may bite, and then discover that Fellowship is sweet.