I recently started a Sunday sermon with two stories that sat in juxtaposition to one another.
The first story was an old, corny joke, the second story comes from a personal experience and both involve food. The intent was to create contrast to help us evaluate the true severity of the situations and struggles we face in our lives. I’d like to share those stories again.
Perhaps you’ve heard this joke or one like it before. A man walked into a restaurant and ordered the soup of the day. A short time later, the waiter returned and placed a delicious bowl of soup before the man. As the waiter walked away, the man called out with a hint of disgust in his voice, “Excuse me, waiter, but there is a fly in my soup.” The waiter replied, “Keep it down or everyone will want one.”
The other story comes from my very brief time working at a well-known fast food establishment, which shall remain nameless. The cooking device/oven for this particular restaurant was a long conveyor that transported burger patties through flames, giving them a flame-broiled flavor for which the restaurant is famous. On only one occasion did I participate in the cleaning of the inside of the oven, and it was memorable.
I was tasked with cleaning the space under the conveyor. I used a metal hook to reach into the oven and pull out all of the charred remnants that sat in the bottom of the oven. As I was pulling things out, mostly fragments of burgers that had fallen through the cracks, I came across what looked like a whole crumpled-up burger.
As it exited the darkness of the bowels of the oven, I realized it was something even less appetizing than a charred burger. It was, in fact, a charbroiled rodent.
At some point, this rodent had fallen into the oven and had slow cooked, along with lord knows how many burgers. I informed management, who instructed me to dispose of the evidence, give the oven a thorough cleansing and have it ready for use in the morning. I did not eat burgers at any of the unnamed restaurant’s many establishments for quite some time.
The two stories above provide us with similar situations on very different ends of the same scale. I think we can all agree that finding a fly in one’s soup and finding a rodent in the cooking apparatus are both less than appetizing experiences. One is a relatively minor inconvenience, while the other is a major health concern.
Most of us would simply remove the fly and eat the soup, but finding or learning of a rodent in an establishment’s oven is valid reason to never eat at that restaurant again.
We live in a hyper-sensationalized age. It is all too easy for us to turn any and all struggles into full-on emergencies. We might say we’ve developed a bad habit of treating flies in our soup as if they are rodents in the oven. We fixate on what are, in truth, relatively small inconveniences or differences of opinion, allowing them to consume us, causing greater insult and/or injury to us and those around us than they should.
Consider the prevalence of cancel culture, boycott culture, the propensity to unfriend and block those who disagree with us and all of the emotional baggage and anxiety so many of us struggle with in ordinary, everyday encounters.
We could all do with healthy doses of wisdom and understanding to help us discern the truth of the situations and struggles of life. Proverbs 3:21-23 reads, “My son, do not let wisdom or understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgement and discretion; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble.”
We often stumble over our own feet, doing harm to ourselves and/or those around us because we fail to properly discern the true significance or insignificance of our experiences and struggles. We would do well to learn to discern the difference between flies in our soup and rodents in our ovens and to act accordingly.
The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com. Send comments to [email protected].