When I rediscovered my ice cream maker a couple of months ago, I started dreaming up ice cream flavors I wanted to try to make. Orange chocolate chip, peanut butter chocolate chip, raspberry, triple-strawberry white chocolate chip, blackberry cheesecake, jumbleberry pie, s'mores, black cherry, white chocolate....
We made a bunch of batches of ice cream.
After about a dozen, someone suggested we try vanilla. I brushed it off. Why would I want to make vanilla? That's so...boring. Plain. Not exciting or creative or unique or amazing or worth bragging about. And so easy to succeed at. Where's the challenge in making vanilla? Where's the romance and glory and risk and excitement?
Then, one day, after making two buckets of fancy ice cream (I like to make 2 or more at a time because the machine is already out and filled with ice, why waste it?), I found I had extra cream that I didn't have any other use for. I had cream and milk, but no flavorings. But the ice cream machine was ready and full of ice, so I threw together a bucket of vanilla ice cream.
It was incredible. One of everyone's favorite flavors. One of the fastest to disappear of anything we tried. One of the few that everyone asked me to make again--soon. One of the best. ever. ever.
I forget--often--given the great array of ice cream flavors to choose from that the simplest, plainest flavor is actually probably my very favorite. I love vanilla ice cream. My whole family loves vanilla ice cream. It's easy to customize with toppings, easy to pair with other desserts, follows any dinner perfectly, can be fancy or simple, and appeals to everyone's tastes. Nobody in the family hates vanilla. Nobody protests when I pull out a bucket of plain old vanilla ice cream. Everyone is satisfied with vanilla, and glad we had it.
I was thinking about Truth today and how much it's like vanilla ice cream. It is so simple, so plain, so unassuming that people tend to reject it, looking for something fancier, more exciting, more romantic. Something involving greater risk, a greater imagined reward, and bragging rights. Something that's a story you can tell your friends.
Take, for example, the search for eternal youth. Alchemists searched. Explorers searched. Science even now is constantly searching for the secret to living forever, young and healthy. Nobody seems to want to die.
But the truth is we already HAVE the secret to eternal youth and living forever. Jesus died and was resurrected, so everyone who is born gets to be resurrected into a glorified, perfected (presumably young) body. Their own body. Made perfect. Healthy and young forever. Ironically, the amazing key that unlocks this treasure that people have been seeking for thousands of years is death, the very thing they are trying to avoid.
Somehow, this answer--just live life and you not only get to experience all that life has to offer (including old age), but you also get to live forever in a perfect, not elderly body--somehow this answer is roundly rejected by, oh, everyone who is looking for eternal life. It's not the answer they're looking for. It involves death and submitting to life, and they would much rather submit to an arduous journey than to something as plain vanilla boring as life and death.
Somehow, truth is often so plain, so boring, so easy, that we can't seem to embrace it. Instead, we sink our lives into complex searches for something bigger and better and more mystical and amazing, and we miss the real answer to that hunger inside (whatever the hunger may be--sometimes we don't even know). With all the options out there, we overlook the vanilla ice cream and forget that it is perfectly satisfying, easily customized to fit any circumstance or need, and good. Oh, so so so good.
Once I composed a story about a man who wanted to have magical powers. He set out on a journey to find the secret to having magical powers. His journey took him across the world, to mountain peaks and deepest caves, across raging rivers and through jungles and deserts. Finally, after many years and a lot of struggle and sorrow, the journeying led the man back to his own house. His neighbor welcomed him home and asked how the trip was. The man told of his adventures, and the neighbor asked him, "Did you find what you were looking for?" "No," the man replied. He explained to his neighbor what he'd been searching for, and the neighbor looked surprised. "Oh? You wanted magical powers? Well, you get those by possessing this magical stone." Now it was the man's turn to looks surprised. "You knew all along?" he asked. "Sure," the neighbor said. "I've had magical powers for years. In fact, I have dozens of extra stones lying around. Just a minute and I'll get one for you and teach you how to use it. It only takes a minute to master." The man was shocked and could hardly believe it. His own mundane neighbor had the secret all along? And it was free and available? Something that precious and desirable was actually also common and easy to master? How could that be? He had never thought to ask around his own neighborhood, to take up the idea with his friends and neighbors. They were too normal. It was too easy. Too vanilla ice cream. Surely something that desirable would be hidden and take work and not be available to everyone, wouldn't it? Like finding the fountain of youth, which surely must be hidden in some cave somewhere, and not merely embedded in something as plain, normal, boring, and inevitable as death, he was searching for the exotic and forgetting to try the vanilla.
Because surely truth must be grand and amazing and hard to come by and profoundly mystical and not freely available to everyone and easy to find. And boring. Surely truth can't be boring.
But it turns out that so often, truth is unassuming and humble, seemingly boring and plain. But when you taste it, it turns out it actually is grand and amazing and incredibly satisfying. Delicious. But not fancy. And not necessarily new-and-improved or recently developed or newly discovered or the provenance of just a few.
Just like vanilla ice cream.