Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Meaty Parable for the Discerning Steak Lover

Going through old files I recently found this article I wrote back in 2000 for a church newsletter. Seems to me to be just as relevant today. Shared here for fun...

I am a steak-lover. Nothing beats a good New Yorker hot off the grill, rubbed with garlic, chili powder, onion salt, and a mix of other spices randomly chosen from the cupboard. Such a prize is best seared over high heat on both sides and served medium rare with a baked potato. I get hungry just thinking about it.

I even have my share of steak stories. Like the time I are at a ranch house restaurant in the middle of west Texas where they offered a free 32-oz. steak to the man or woman who could eat the whole thing in one sitting. The price was $29.99, charged to the customer only if the meal wasn’t finished within a reasonable time. Since it was my birthday, I bought into the deal and was served the toughest, rarest sinew riddled chunk of beef I had ever seen. At least I think it was beef. I almost finished the edible parts, but had to relinquish the 30 bucks when I couldn’t cut the final shreds off the bone. Big bone, tough meat, dull knife, stupid Californian – you know how it is.

The best steaks in my life have included one I ate at McClintock’s, one at the Basque restaurant in Los Banos (though the water on the table sure had a funny taste), and the ones I enjoyed with Deanna on our honeymoon (maybe it was the the locale?).

On to the parable. What if I treated this love of mine – the steak, not Deanna – as many believers treat the truth of God’s Word? What kind of testimonial would I write?

I love steak. It has become my reason for living. There is nothing so victorious as a tri-tip on a Friday  evening, or a fillet mignon served on a special occasion. I would surrender to the grave if I didn’t have the strength and joy that comes from eating steak.

I remember the time I first discovered steak. I had been living on vegetables and oatmeal in a commune in Marin County back in the days when the health food elite eschewed all processed food and red meat. Euell Gibbons reigned supreme. Though I followed the rules as best as I could, I was never truly satisfied.

I was introduced first to tri-tip by a fellow member of the commune who had returned from a trip to Santa Maria. He smuggled a small portion to me after the evening meal, and though it was a few hours old, and a bit cold and tough, I knew I had discovered real food.

Months later I was kicked out of the commune when I was found in possession of a kilo of top sirloin which I had been cooking over a small fire behind the well. I took the rejection well. I was ready to be out on my own, freed from the bondage of bran and broccoli.

I spent many years growing in my affection for steak. I joined a club of steak-lovers. I could travel hours for a good feeding, having heard about some new chef or restaurant. When not eating out, I would feed myself, and even though I didn’t have the gifts of the master grillers, I could still be full and satisfied.

I bought books about steak. I collected pictures of steaks for the walls of my home. I listened to cooking shows on the radio and watched food TV, anxious to hear anything about my favorite meal. I put bumper stickers on my car to tell the world about my first love; “Honk if you love steak!” and “Steak lovers aren’t perfect, just full!”

After all those years, I can say I had truly arrived. I had become a steak connoisseur.

But I noticed that my love was not shared by many others. In fact some openly criticized my affection for beef, and claimed it was doing me harm. But I knew better. Still, how could they be convinced? The question perplexed me at first, and I found no good answer apart from giving them steak to try for themselves. But this only worked with a few. Many still rejected. The problem became an obsession for me.

I knew how a good steak is cooked, and how it is served to a true steak-lover. What I didn’t know was how to win over struggling vegetarians in the market place.

I embarked on a personal study of the kinds of things the other side was embracing. I spent time in salad bars, coffee bars, sushi bars, and tofu bars. I collected some statistics, analyzed the results, and reached some startling conclusions. And I am now ready to offer my services to restaurants around the world as a consultant and evaluator. Here’s what I would advise:
  •   Stop serving such big portions! People can only handle so much steak. If you give them too much, they’ll get turned off to red meat altogether and spend their time and money on coffee. Serve no more than one or maybe two morsels with each meal. Fill up the plate with lots of French fries. People can digest French fries. Just don’t give them too much steak.
  •  Only serve steak once a week! It’s too much to think that steak can be digested properly when served too often. One meal a week is sufficient. People are busy. They commute and work and play and can’t take the time to sit down to a real meal but once every seven days. That should hold them over.
  •  Spend more time on ambience! Steak is nice, but what really makes it fun is when it’s served in a great setting. Get some hot music for the restaurant, comfortable seats, a cool lighting scheme, and some bubbly waitresses. In fact, if you can disguise the place as a coffee bar, all the better. Then people may not even know they’re getting steak!
  •  Find new steaks! I, like many other steak lovers, have already eaten top sirloin, cross-rib, fillet mignon, center cut, and New York steaks. Why would we want to eat the same steaks again and again? Try finding new cuts, new meats, new forms. This will hold our interest and show the vegetarian world that even steak lovers can have variety and fun.
  •  Stop criticizing vegetarians! They have their own way, and though we don’t think much of it, they’re content, so let’s let them be. such criticism only drives them farther away.
Recently, I visited a restaurant in another town. One of the members of my club took me there. I was so unimpressed. The place looked like a steak house; sawdust on the floor, bench seats, smoky interior, and decorations that looked like they had come from a cattle ranch. I was served a huge slab of beef. I managed to eat only half of it. It was too rich. And it reminded me of a cut of meat I had already tasted. I couldn’t understand why my friend raved about the place. He seemed satisfied, but I was missing all the other side dishes and attractions.

I found the manager and complained. I gave him my five pieces of advice. He thanked me kindly, and then asked if I was mistaken when I called myself a steak-lover. Of course I am a steak-lover! I am just concerned about the non-steak-lovers.

They’re welcome anytime, he replied.

But what if they don’t want steak?

He smiled pityingly and directed me to a coffee bar down the street.

I don’t mean to be simplistic with my analogies. But true Christians are truth-lovers. They hunger for it, even when they have heard it before. They long for others to experience the truth. And when they try to make the truth palatable to unbelievers, they run the risk of losing their own hunger and love for the very thing they are trying to promote.

Jesus said He is the truth. He said the truth sanctifies us and sets us free. He calls us to speak the truth in love. He tells us His Word is truth (John 17:17). And of unbelievers, the Bible says, “…they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” (II Thessalonians 2:10).

May God make us to be truth-lovers. And may He protect us from becoming so full of ourselves that we have no hunger for Him.

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