Life Savers

When I was young, I loved Lifesavers candy. Well, that isn’t exactly true. You see, Life Savers came in 5 flavors. I didn’t like the green one at all. I would toss it away or give it to someone (gosh, wasn’t I the generous soul?).  The other flavors I could tolerate well enough, but the prize was the red one. I would take my time peeling back the paper and eating the other flavors until the red one would appear. It was a happy moment when my patience would be rewarded with that delicious red flavor. Actually, I would have been happy if all of them had been red.

Why were they called Life Savers? In 1912, candy manufacturer Clarence Crane  invented Life Savers as a “summer candy” that could withstand heat better than chocolate. The candy’s name is derived from its similarity to the shape of lifebuoys used for saving people who have fallen from boats. The name has also inspired an urban legend that Crane invented the candy to prevent children from choking, due to his own child having choked on a hard candy.

Interesting, but what does this have to do with faith or salvation?

Sometimes I hear people say that Orthodoxy is too complicated. We tell them to “taste and see that the Lord is good”. They tell us that there are too many flavors and some of them they don’t like. Fasting is one of those Orthodox flavors that can be hard to swallow. A discipline of prayer is also difficult. Fasting and prayer taste green and we can spend a lot of time avoiding them. I remember a friend who had a non-Orthodox wife. One day he was pushing hard for her to convert, and she responded that she could not fast. He pressed a little harder, and she said that she could fast some, but she just had to have cheese. He later asked me if that would be acceptable, so I told him we would have one order of Orthodoxy with cheese. Actually, she never did convert. She told him that no one was going to tell her what to eat or what not to eat. He replied that that is exactly what Eve said!

Then there are flavors of Orthodoxy that are tolerable.  We don’t mind them too much and it isn’t that they are unpleasant, but they aren’t the red ones. The long services can be a bit tough, so that’s not a red one. We stand a lot and that’s not a red one. Then there’s the sermon – hmmm, that one feels a bit green. Confession – what can we say about that? We recognize the flavor, but it can be hard to get excited about. There are other flavors that we tolerate and even enjoy a little..

If I were to ask you what part of Orthodoxy is red for you, what part(s) you really savor,  I wonder what you would say? To me, the best red in Orthodoxy is the Eucharist. When Christ is present on the Altar, giving Himself to us, that is the best.  Another red for me is when brothers and sisters dwell together in a unity of mind and soul.  I really love that one. Another red is to see someone come into the Faith. Sweet indeed.

There are other reds, but I will stop at these because something has dawned on me. What if the whole pack could become red? What if I could savor each flavor of Orthodoxy?  What if I realized that each part of Orthodoxy is a red life saver? There are no greens or oranges in Orthodoxy, just reds. The problem is some of them still taste green to me, and while others are sweeter,  I just tolerate them really. This is sad because I desperately need a life saver, so what gives me the luxury of picking and choosing which one I will enjoy and which one I will not. I remember that the word “heresy” means “to pick and choose.” You see, fasting really is a life saver, and so is prayer, and attending church services, and so on. A drowning man can hardly wait for a particular color of life buoy. Still, if I valued all of them……

Those who came to understand that all of Orthodoxy is red are called  saints. I hope that someday, my pack of Orthodox Lifesavers will all be red. What a sweet day that will be, for that will be the day that I truly begin to save my life.


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