Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ahhh, Asiago!

I love asiago cheese, and I’m fond of the occasional bagel. Putting the two in combination was something I’d never considered until a bagger friend at the grocery store one morning was pondering his food options for his upcoming break and suddenly said, “That’s it! I’ll have an asiago cheese bagel!”

Noting the blank stares on those of us working around him, he said, “Haven’t you ever tried one of those?! They’re incredible! The saltiness of the cheese is just the perfect complement to the bread of the bagel. Once you try one, you’ll be hooked! But you have to buy them early; they go fast.”

It turns out he was right on all counts. Amused that I was the one who was next sent on break, with a few coins in my pocket and curiosity in my taste buds I headed to the bakery section in the back of the store. There I was lucky enough to find a few of the desired item still in the display case, quickly bought one and headed off to the break room. Soon I was in asiago bagel heaven, the mass of cheese filling the hole in the middle and melted around the bottom a special delight!

Wouldn’t you know, once on board I found that my new bagel addiction was hard to feed. My bagger friend was right; the asiago variety sold out quickly each morning, leaving only an empty tray and a few crumbs in their slot next to their jalapeno cheddar brothers. Farther on down there were likewise plenty of its cinnamon crunch buddies, my former bagel of choice, but having tasted the asiago variety I was surprised to find that they no longer tempted me the way they used to. I would simply sigh in disappointment and turn away to find a less satisfying snack to eat that day.

I even mentioned the problem to the bakery manager the next time I saw him, asking why he didn’t refill the bagel case when one particular variety sold out. He told me that they put out all that they have at one time, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. He did suggest a simple solution to the problem, however, generously offering to put some aside for me if I’d mention the matter to him the night before.

I’ve yet to take him up on the offer, and I think I know why. I like the anticipation of the trip to that corner of the store, wondering if my desire is going to be satisfied on that particular morning. Whatever the outcome, the longing remains and springs up fresh and new on the succeeding day. It’s even stirred by the sight of a bakery bag coming down the lane in the midst of a customer’s groceries when I’m working behind the register later on, the toasted cheese shreds on the bagel visible through the translucent packaging a dead giveaway to the wonders of what lie inside.

It’s the same thing that brings me to my devotional time each day, the anticipation of what God might have to say. I’ve become addicted to the sound of His voice. I’m amazed that I lived for years not knowing that such a treat was available to me, and am forever grateful to the fellow traveler who one day asked me if I’d sampled His wares. His description of the joy he found in his own relationship with God intrigued me, and after giving the matter some thought, I decided to try it out for myself. What I found, however, was so much more than just a temporary satisfaction to a momentary hunger. God literally saved and then changed my life, little by little in those morning meetings with Him, a bite at a time.

An interesting thing has happened as a result. Other pleasures, some healthy, others less so, have lost their pull on my life, replaced by a taste sensation in those mealtimes with God that they just can’t match. And now I’m hooked. I come to Him each day for food that satisfies, and unlike as sometimes happens in the bakery, I never come away disappointed. He always has something ready for me if I’ll simply make the time to head in His direction.

Due to their scarcity, there’s an unwritten code of ethics to be followed among us cheese bagel devotees that applies only to this one variety we so adore: you buy one and leave one for the next person who comes along. Another asiago addict told me that he tried to stare down a lady beside him at the bakery case who quickly stashed three in a bag and left in a hurry, refusing to meet his accusing gaze. And I laughed at myself the other day when a bakery bag came down the conveyor belt of my checkout lane, and I could clearly see the bagels lying inside, back to cheesy back. While I always confirm the quantity inside with the customer before ringing them up, I noticed there was a slight edge to my voice and I spoke perhaps a little too loudly as I asked, “You’ve got two in here?” She ignored my tone as best she could and simply nodded as she continued to unload her groceries. But she got my point.

All joking aside, we tend to do that with the spiritual treats we consume, as well. We hoard what God meant to be freely shared about, and wait for people to be stirred by the tell-tale signs of His presence inside our human packaging before offering to share the joy we’ve discovered with the hungry souls around us. God wants us to simply give what we’ve got away. Thankfully His supply never runs out, His mercies are new every morning, and refills are available throughout the day! Any time we feel the hunger rumbling in our spirits we can physically or mentally hit our knees and smile at our Father in anticipation as we whisper, “A little asiago cheese, please…?!”

It’s a picture and a plea He simply can’t resist.

“And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes on Me shall never thirst.”
(John 6:35 MKJV)

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