What You See is What You (Might) Get

I came across an article recently that I just couldn’t pass up.  When the headline is about gummy bears, it has my attention.  I love everything gummy, and am very particular about which gummies are the best.  (Which everyone knows is a cola gummy matched with a sour cherry gummy, of course.)  As this article shows, a recent scientific study posed the question regarding how do the senses of sight and taste affect each other?

Charles Spence, a U.K. scientist, took ordinary college students, and gave them clear, flavored liquids in clear bottles, and asked them to identify the flavor: orange, grape, apple, or lemon.   Overall, they actually managed to identify the flavors quite well. When he added color to the drinks, however, intentionally making the colors not match the flavor (i.e. the orange flavoring was colored purple), the students’ accuracy in determining the flavor was grossly diminished.  Even when he told them that he was trying to mess with them, they were still unable to overcome the sight bias of what flavor to expect.

Apparently, according to the article, this is a fact that candy companies have known for years, as it’s cheaper to alter color and fragrance than it is to alter taste.  Skittles actually all taste exactly the same. They simply have different fragrance and colors attached to them so our brains fill in the missing piece and make us think that they taste different.  (Is your world spinning up like mine did when I read that? I’m still getting over it. Taste the rain-blow your mind!)

It got me thinking, though, of how much I already do this in so many ways.  I allow my previous experiences, biases, relationships, and learning to determine the way that I will see, feel, and taste new opportunities that may come my way.  It can show up in big and small ways. For example, I can’t eat hot dogs anymore. I used to love them, but once, in second grade, I got really sick after eating hot dogs and after throwing them up multiple times, I never really got that bad taste out of my mouth or mind.  No more hot dogs.

While this may limit my food options at a ball game, the hot dog impact is minimal.  I can think of a time, however, that I passed up an opportunity to pursue a life-long dream because I knew it would require me swimming in deep water, something that has become a phobia of mine after a bad experience in childhood swimming lessons.  

And then there are much subtler ways that it shows up: I don’t really want to pursue a new friendship with that person because they kind of remind me of that girl that was mean to me in middle school, or that boss that berated me, and the list goes on.  I look at an opportunity that comes up and before I even have the chance to experience it, I have already created the expectation of what it will be like in my mind and I risk missing out on tasting something new.

We’re studying the book of Mark during our Sunday services right now, and I was struck by the verses in Mark 1:16-20 when Jesus calls his first disciples.  These guys were fishermen, working that day like any other. They were in their career. They were experienced. They knew what to expect for basically every day for the rest of their lives.  

And yet, when Jesus called to them, they allowed themselves to set aside the past experiences, to set aside the nets that they saw in front of them, and the smell of fish that pervaded every inch of their clothing, and to instead see past their expectations of the day and hear something new.  Jesus was offering them something that kind of resembled what they’d known (“You guys can still be fishermen,”) but it was going to be unlike anything they’d expect (“You are going to fish for men.”) They were offered purple-colored, orange soda, and they decided to close their eyes to the past and see and taste something new that they’d never known.  And their lives, and subsequently our lives, would never be the same.

Maybe Jesus is calling you to a next step that you’re not so sure about.  It seems vaguely familiar to a previous experience that you do not want to relive.  But maybe, just maybe, He’s offering you the opportunity to experience something new, to rewrite the story from the past and taste His Goodness in a whole new way.  I’m praying for courage for you, and me, that when He calls our name with an offer of a new thing, that you, too, can leave the past behind, and see all He has in store for your future, and the legacy that will continue.  

Except hot dogs.  I sure hope He doesn’t call me back to hot dogs.

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Leah Leach (@leaheleach) lives in South Philly with her best friend and husband Brad, and four children.  When she’s not eating gummy candies and avoiding hot dogs, she enjoys being a part of the leadership team at City Life Church, reading with her kids, and finding any excuse to bake.

Leah Leach