My son began playing T-Ball when he was four years old. For two un-self-conscious years he would come running over to me with a quick, “Mommy, I’m thirsty.” I’d hand him a bottle of water and off he’d go.
But by age six, the television ads had accomplished their goal: “Mom, I have to have Gatorade. It’s the only thing athletes drink.” And, for right or wrong, I decided this was not a hill to die on. So, over the next 9 years I invested in gallons of Gatorade (on sale)…until my son was fifteen.
As a new freshman in high school he went out for the wrestling team for his first(and only) year. The wrestling program was rather legendary in its strong approach to discipline, and one of the non-negotiables was “you will drink water as long as you are in this program.” So I watched my son hastily drop Gatorade and consume great volumes of water. I refrained from commenting on this change of behavior, but I never bought another bottle of Gatorade.
I would never bestow any kind of sainthood on the wrestling program, though, in this case, they echoed Bernard of Clairvaux. “The man is wise who tastes all things as they really are.” Water is a real substance, in a way that Gatorade is merely an attractive, pricey and caloric counterfeit.
Last week in the course “On Christian Wisdom,” I found the topic of discerning “real” of lively interest in both my live and live online classes. We found no difficulty in identifying the counterfeits for which we reach: the guarantee of the social and financial promises attached to a particular degree or career; the myth that loving our children means seeking to protect them from all suffering, not realizing how easily we can substitute sentimentality for real love. We can be so easily convinced that buying this car or living in that neighborhood is the path to happiness.
Counterfeits all. And, as Dame Follv reminds us, counterfeits can be quite attractive…..at first. But each is ultimately self-serving, clouding our cap acity to perceive reality aright. How is this quality of discernment to be cultivated in “wisdom’s children”-all those who long to see the kingdom break into the here and now? Here is part one of a two part response:
If we want to be wise, we may need to pray for the desire to love water, not just in what we drink, but in what we read, watch, feast our eyes upon, listen to, think upon…ultimately asking the Holy Spirit to awaken good desires and purify the counterfeit ones in our souls. The good, true, and beautiful will always “re- hydrate” us in a way that nothing else can approach. Once we love water, we will begin to discern the counterfeits for the imitations they are. And when we begin to love the real, no new flavor of Gatorade will tantalize in the same way again.