umin. Cilantro. Cinnamon. Cardamom. Chai. Chile. Colors and smells enthralled my senses as our guests walked in the door, bringing into our French home much more than food to share. We had invited them for a most unusual culinary journey, asking each guest to bring their favorite homemade dish to share over an hours-long sit-down banquet.
The feast arrived sealed within every shape and color of earthenware, cast-iron, glass, and basket; but no container could contain the aromas that boldly wove around us, the first hints of new discoveries yet to be tasted.
The table was set and the fare unveiled: Lebanese tabbouleh, Indian chapati, Greek mezze, Spanish paella, Thai curry, Korean kimchi, Brazilian meat, French duck confit, New-York style cheesecake, and Italian tiramisu. I even baked French croissants for the occasion.
We took our seats around my casual red-and-white checkered tablecloth and white porcelain plates. My husband’s garden-grown flowers added the festive je-ne-sais-quoi, symbolic of the ambiance the next few hours would hold. One by one, each guest presented their offering of love, providing personal stories and favorite memories, inviting us to experience their culture through our five senses. Each tasteful bite was matched only by the extravagant displays and textures, the delightful laughter of easy conversation, and, the indescribable fragrance of this exceptional menu. For a day, our home became a cradle for culinary cultures.
Watching my guests interact with the unusual fare was enlightening. While some kept the bowl of salt-and-pepper potato chips safely nearby, the more daring discovered delightful new experiences for their taste buds.
Watching my friends dine inspired me to wonder: What flavors have I yet to encounter to enhance my spiritual journey? Do I approach the Bible expecting a burst of deliciously spiced novelty, or do I satisfy myself with the same old bland scriptural potato chips? Do I look to the church universal, across time and space, to enrich my experience of intimacy with my precious Lord, or do I stick to what I already know?
I am French, which means I am culturally wired to love good food. I am also a former devout atheist, which means my passion for and gratitude to Jesus flavor my every moment. And, because I have lived on three continents in four countries through six professional roles, I have learned to decipher traditions and language to taste the cultural beauty surrounding me.
Now, as a native French woman living in the United States, I am still living and ministering cross-culturally. This unique global experience has taught me to encounter Scripture through the same lens of language, food, culture, and spice; I have learned to camp at the intersection of culture and Scripture. God challenged me almost 30 years ago, when I was a very convinced atheist, to dare to “taste and see that he is good.” Since then, I have tasted how God is like dark chocolate: both addictive and good for you.
My illuminating experience with Scripture revealed to me that our marvelous Lord is culturally savvy: He took that food-related verse (“taste and see,” Psalm 34:8) to challenge me in a way my heart could understand.
I love the French word for delight: it is the word, délice. In French, we have only that one word for the two English words delight and delicious. The poetic beauty cannot escape you: in French, God is both delightful and delicious. Spiritually speaking, when we aim to make God’s glory our delight, we also aim to savor his goodness. That is why my personal motto is, “God’s glory, our delight.”
We French are famous for our passion for all things hedonistic, and I’ll be the first to admit it: outside of Christ, we have taken things down the wrong path. But allow me to redeem a little something that is precious to my French heart—our definition of luxury. In America, luxury might be defined by the abundance and quality of possessions; in France we like to think of luxury as “a feast of the five senses.” When your five senses are involved in an experience, that moment is luxurious. Think of your first bite of a warm, crisp, buttery croissant: your senses of smell, sight, touch, taste, and even hearing are all involved. That is luxury.
Spiritual luxury is being so immersed in our relationship with God that all five senses are involved. We delight in God with our whole heart, mind, soul, strength, and spirit. We long for him more than the deer pants for water or the child for a mother’s embrace. God told Jeremiah and Ezekiel that his Word is like honey. I would like to suggest it is like a French croissant, too.
The croissant is part of our daily routine in France, and I dare say that no culinary luxury is complete without one. It necessarily accompanies my morning coffee—black, no sugar—while I meet with God before the sun arrives. To me, daily spiritual luxury tastes like French roast.
From my morning coffee onward, I purposefully plan my day to steer clear of insipid sameness and instead, integrate creative change. I apply the same diversity to my spiritual routine, drawing from the spice pantry of the traditional spiritual disciplines to counter the dreaded staleness. Our spiritual spice rack offers such variety that I never should experience tastelessness as I seek to ground my faith: Scripture memorization, prayer, Bible study, journaling, acts of service, fasting, worship, singing, and reading inspiring authors, from the past and from the present both.
Just like the manifold items at our potluck meal, these spice jars provide different textures and flavors that will enthrall and challenge my mind and heart, inviting me into spiritual luxury and beckoning my five spiritual senses. They teach me to love the Lord my God will all my heart, mind, soul, strength, and spirit.
There is a final element of spiritual luxury that draws me deeper into the throne room in awe and worship every day: in Christ, success is guaranteed. In other words, when I decide to make God’s glory my delight every day, I align myself with God’s will for me, and am therefore poised for a satisfying, fulfilling, delightfully successful life. Just like my potluck guests were bound to succeed in their cooking efforts because they were showcasing their identity, delighting in God is the way to and result of a well-grounded identity in him. That is the spice of life, and the ultimate spiritual luxury.
I cannot adequately convey to you the matchlessness of a fresh French croissant without handing you one to taste. Similarly, we cannot understand what it means to be in awe of God by simply being told, we must experience him.
As God’s child, I am created to delight in his glory every day—that is the ultimate spiritual luxury and definition of success. It will look different for each one of us, because God is too creative to do things twice the same way. As my teenage daughter likes to remind me, originals are worth more than copies.
And in that sense, our multicultural potluck dinner provided a taste of eternal spiritual luxury; each contribution was truly one-of-a-kind and together all pointed to a reality greater than each part—greater than the individual spices and flavors could ever have achieved. As we connected around tastes, smells, textures, sights, and laughter, we enjoyed the fellowship that every tongue, tribe and nation will soon experience forever. To delight in God’s glory is the deepest longing of the human heart and the most satisfying banquet we can ever join. So grab a chair and join the feast. You are awaited.
Cover Photograph by Klara Kulikova
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