26 February 2010

Eating Our Words - How Will Yours Taste?


A Different Kind of Recipe

Have you ever had to "eat your words"? That little cliché has never really given me much pause for thought. Maybe it should. It is, after all, about eating and about words. What could speak more plainly to a food blogger?

What if I did have to eat my words? What would they taste like? Would my words be sweet and nourishing like bits of dried fruit? Or would they be hard and bitter like dried beans?

I first considered these questions when I picked up a worksheet featuring what appeared to be a simple recipe. (How better to capture a food blogger’s attention?) The recipe begins like this...


Fasting From Faults of the Tongue

1 lb. dried beans
1 lb. raisins (or other dried fruit)
2 medium size bowls
a large measure of Honesty

The execution, however, is a little more difficult. It asks us to commit, over the course of a month or so, to being mindful of our words. Each time we speak we are asked to consider what has passed our lips. Are our words sweet and nourishing? Or are they hard and hurtful?

Dried Beans and Raisins

The dried beans are there to represent our indiscretions, the faults that slip past our tongue on a daily basis. Every time we speak in anger or refer to someone in negative terms, whenever a lie passes our lips, or an unkindness, every time we share a little gossip, criticize or complain, it asks us to drop a dry bean in one of the bowls.


The raisins represent the fruits of the Spirit, the kindness and encouragement we offer and share. In the course of a day, whenever we find that we have spoken in gentleness or offered words of kindness or support, whenever we express love, joy, patience, peace or find ourselves practicing self-control, we put a raisin in the second bowl.

Why are our faults like dried beans? They need some attention and application of process before they can edify us and add nourishment to our diet. As they are, dry and hard, they have little value. Like small stones they are more likely to callous and irritate, wounding us without adding nutrition, incapable of providing complete protein and, if consumed, largely pass through our system without benefit. Yet our words do have potential. If we attend to them, if they are soaked, softened, seasoned and combined with other nutrients, these hard nuggets can become both nutritious and palatable.


Raisins, on the other hand, are nuggets of fruit. Plump and sweet, raisins are fruit of the vine that are preserved and tucked away to sustain us in seasons of plenty or drought. They sweeten the staff of life and make the ordinary special. Raisins have long been treasured as a treat added to holiday sweets. They are valued for the bright flavor of light and warmth they bring to a cold off-season meal.

As you may have already realized, this recipe requires a lot of personal awareness and a very large measure of honesty. But then, if we aren’t honest, who are we fooling? Only ourselves.

Eating Our Words

When the month is done we will cook and eat the bowl of beans we have collected. Soaking them in water the beans soften as the hard outer husk cracks and often pulls away. When heat is applied they become even softer until they are actually palaltable and can provide nourishment. Then the beans are able to absorb a little salt and other seasoning making them into a tasty meal.


Then we can focus on the bowl of fruit. Using the raisins or other dried fruit we have collected we can bake a delicious loaf of sweet bread, cake or other sweet treat to share and enjoy with family or friends in celebration of the good gift of words and the power they have to build, encourage and transform.

This project came to my attention when it was introduced at our church as a practice for Lent. Whether or not you are drawn to observe Lent this is a practice you might want to consider during any season. It is said that habits can be formed or changed with regular practice over a period of roughly one month. Why not reflect on this practice over the course of any month to see if you can transform any stray faults of the tongue into fruitful words that will encourage and nourish those around you.

7 comments:

scmom (Barbara) said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts today.

George Gaston said...

In today's uncertain world, too often we probably speak more beans than raisins. But that is not an excuse for forgetting that kindness is just as easy to speak; if we stop and think of others and not just about ourselves.

Your project would be a great way to see what other people see and helps us to collect more raisins in our lives.

Thanks for this "wake-up call"...

Jeff said...

What a wonderful challenge! I imagine that no matter how accomplished one felt at the end of the month, the requirement for 'honesty' would make the exercise equally challenging every time it was tried. Thank you for sharing this. It has "bean" a great read!

grace said...

very interesting. metaphors and allegories and the like often sail right over my head, but i can absolutely follow this analogy. thanks for bringing this concept to my attention in such a wonderfully-written way, lisa!

Claudia said...

Nice to read an article about food, with spiritual meaning and depth. Thanks for the insights.

Ricki said...

What a lovely idea. Anything that makes us more aware of what we say and the impact it has on others is useful, I think. And the conrete representation of the beans and raisins may make us just that much more aware!

Theresa said...

What a poignant piece. A reminder of how we can strive to be better.