by Tad Lindley
Growing up Mom was paranoid about mayonnaise going bad. My memory could be exaggerating it, but it seemed like if the jar of Hellman’s Real mayonnaise (we never used Miracle Whip) ever hit room temperature it was gone into the trash. Say we ate dinner and somehow during the dishwashing and putting everything away the mayo got missed and later in the evening it was discovered. Mom would invoke the grim specter of salmonella poisoning and into the garbage it would go. Now as far as I ever knew, if mayo hit room temperature, a literal bacterial population explosion occurred in the jar, potentially leaving an unsuspecting family teetering at the brink of death’s door.
The original mayonnaise moment
It is so easy to believe that our way is the only correct way. And so you can imagine how it rocked my world when I moved to Southwest Alaska and I was visiting my friend Richard’s and I realized that here is a family that opens the mayonnaise, throws the lid away, and leaves it sitting on the table at room temperature for days until the very dregs are scooped out for eating. And nobody had died from it! It forced me to reconcile what I was seeing with what I had previously believed all my life to be true. But the truth was right in front of my face, how could I deny it? I was forced me to admit that the longstanding tradition passed down to me from my mother which had been passed to her from her mother, was wrong.
Take 2, 3, 4 and more
When I was new here similar mayonnaise moments happened over and over. Of course everyone knows that dried herring tastes better when they have been allowed to sit and age a few days before they are cut, but when I first heard a friend say, “The problem is these days the ladies don’t let the herring sit long enough before they cut them,” it challenged what I had always believed to be true. When I saw whole animals on the floors of the lagyaq it used to make me anxious. I’d be thinking, “They better hurry up and cut them before they spoil!” And yet all around me nobody was getting sick and the food was tasting pretty good to me. Bit by bit I had to admit the fact that much of what I grew up believing about food was wrong.
Mayonnaise moments in the real world
Like me, you probably grew up with certain beliefs about God. Perhaps you learned them from Hollywood, or maybe you come from a family that is very involved in church. Some of my strongest influences were my peers. I lived in a neighborhood where many of the kids attended a religious school. It was from them that I learned about sins and hell and guilt. They brought me a God that was waiting for people to mess up so that he could toss them into hell. It seemed that a lot of stuff that was fun was sin and I figured that since I must be going to hell already it didn’t matter whether I sinned a bunch more.
Your own experience with God
When I began to read the Bible a little bit as a teenager, I found out that far from seeking to catch us messing up, Jesus is actually patient, hoping that we will reach to him for salvation (see II Peter 3:9, Luke 15:11-32). It was a mayonnaise moment; what I believed to be true was challenged. I grew up thinking that long hair was cool, and even believed that Jesus had long hair (I Corinthians 11:14). There I was face to face with the Bible and it was very plain, long hair on a man is a mark of shame, another mayo moment. Who is right, Hollywood, or the Bible? The artists or the word of God?
How many mayo moments are there in your Bible?
For the vast majority of us, if we read the word of God, we will see things that challenge what we have been taught about God. There are even some churches that discourage people from reading the word. Their teachings have deviated from the Bible and they have been teaching the traditions of men and passing them off as the commandment of God. They don’t want the people to have a mayo moment and realize that they have been believing something that wasn’t true.
Here is an example. At one time the Anglican church forbade the eating of salt on Fridays unless believers bought a permit to do so. If the people had had access to the Bible they would have immediately recognized this as contrary to I Timothy 4:3 which actually warns us about religious leaders commanding us not to eat certain foods.
Most of the things that my late mom passed on to me have stood the test of time and are true. But in the culinary realm, I have had to make some adjustments to my thinking in order to bring it into touch with reality. While the Bible instructs us to respect our pastor (Hebrews 13:17), it also praises those who compare the words of the preacher with the Bible to make sure the preacher is telling the truth (Acts 17:11). Not only is it the right thing to do, it is God’s desire for us to know his word in great detail. Even the atheist among us has beliefs about God. There is only one way to know for sure if we are correct, and that is to read His word.
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, AK.