My Taste Test Failure

Sipping Poison Won't Make You Wise!

The wisest person isn't always the most experienced. I had to learn that the hard way.

I graduated from high school as an evangelical kid—innocent enough to feel at home in church, yet insecure enough in that innocence to feel I was missing out on something.

I wanted to add a layer of toughness to my skinny frame, thinking that would make me more interesting. So I joined the Marine Corps. There was a reserve unit just outside my hometown, a tank unit, so I could drive tanks on the weekends and be a college student during the week. I'd be a manly man who could strut and say things like, "Back when I was in the Corps. . . ."

I remember teargas training. As the room filled with teargas, the drill instructor started marching around the room and making guys take off their masks. When he came back by and showed you his fist, you could put your mask back on. It went fast enough that you could hold your breath until he returned. Then, once your mask was on, you would plug the filters with your hands and blow out hard. This would clear all the gas out of your mask and you could breathe in filtered air.

Things started out all right for my group. We took off our masks obediently and held our collective breath. A minute later the drill instructor gave me the signal to put my mask on. I was done. I just needed to put on my mask and clear it.

My Dumb Idea

But then I started thinking, How many people can say they've been tear-gassed? How many skinny, Christian kids from Idaho have gone through this? The thought continued: Now I know what it's like to have teargas on your skin and in your eyes, but what would it feel like to have teargas in your lungs? The resolution followed: Maybe I should just take a little sip of the teargas before putting my mask back on. Because then I would know; I would have that experience; I would be wiser.

So I took just one little sip.

Sure enough, my lungs lit on fire and I exploded into a fit of coughing. It felt like napalm had been poured down my throat. Panicking, I pulled on my gas mask quickly, but I had no air left in my lungs to clear the mask. All I could do was suck in the teargas now inside the mask. Total panic set in and I ripped my mask off, thinking I just needed to run for the door and be free.

But I pulled myself together, got my mask back on a second time, and, with a good deal more retching and gagging, breathed through the trapped teargas until I started getting relatively clean air from the filters.

Forbidden Wisdom

It was such a weird impulse to succumb to. I've never told that story and had someone say, "Lucky you!" It's usually more like, "Why?" It was a dumb thing to think and an idiotic thing to do. But at that moment it seemed like an opportunity to do something that would distinguish me from everyone else. To be that much more impressive because I had experienced something that most had not.

Such stupidity is a fundamental error that plagues us all, going back to our first parents.

When the serpent tempted Eve, he told her that when she ate the forbidden fruit her eyes would be opened, and she would be like God, knowing good and evil. The power of the serpent's temptation was the idea that just tasting that fruit would open her eyes and make her wise. She would become distinguished by her experience. And to that temptation she succumbed.

This type of temptation still pulls at each of us with an incredible power. We feel that tasting a forbidden thing will bring us greater wisdom and make us more impressive. In fact, think of how easily we can feel embarrassed by all the sins we haven't committed! We can actually become ashamed of our own innocence. Who wants to be naïve and inexperienced?

In our confusion, innocence becomes insecurity. Such confusion can be cleared up, though, by answering a simple question: Does experience with sin make you wiser or more foolish? Does falling into real sin turn you into someone we should want to be like, or does it turn you into something we should want to avoid?

—Abridged from Used with permission from the Gospel Coalition.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #54, Fall 2020 Copyright © 2024 Salvo |


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