The Cookie Jar – A Satire on Love

This may come across as corny or silly, but I have so many that come up to me after sharing this—sometimes even months or years later—and share their appreciation for this illustration.  So here it is…

Picture yourself as a child, or maybe as a parent with your children, gathered around the dinner table nearly finished with the meal.  The children in the picture are struggling to clean up their plate, so mom or dad grabs a jar out of the pantry and takes the top off. The smell is awesome and the children want what’s in that jar.

Trouble is, mom or dad says, “If you clean up all the green things on your plate you can have one of these.”  The smell is incredible, so with a few veggies under the table, some in the dog’s belly, and a few making their way slowly down the child’s throat, the plate is finally clean!

“Gimme, gimme, gimme,” say the children and mom or dad lovingly obliges. What parent doesn’t want to be a part of that?

So what happens next?  Well every parent sits “Betty” and “Johnny” down and asks them if they would like to learn how to get cookies whenever they wanted. 

“Watch carefully,” says dad.  “First you see that I screwed the top five times.  It really requires six, but that would be too tight for you and we certainly want you to get into the cookies and eat all of them if you like.”

Once this is done, dad places the jar in the far back part of the corner cabinet behind the flour.  He then explains, “You guys see where I put it, right?  You need to be very careful as you pull a chair over and climb on the counter.  You know you’re not supposed to be on the counter, so be very careful and if you hear us coming down the stairs jump in the chair and act like nothing happened.  We’ll do the same.”

“Be very careful. If you push the bag too quickly the flour will blow out and get on the door, cabinet, and counter and we’ll know you’ve been in the cookies.”

“Now that you have it, carefully unscrew the top, five times remember, and then have at it! Eat as many as you want. Whoever gets the most…good for them!”

If you’ve continued to read this far, then you’re probably rolling or squinting your eyes and/or saying, “Whatever?!?”  Of course it doesn’t work this way.  How many of you had to be taught how to find and get into the cookie jar once you’d been given cookies?  How many of you had to be taught how to keep your hand out of the cookie jar maybe with a slight slap on the hand? 

It’s completely silly, thus the satire.  Love is not giving our children all the cookies they want; that’s unhealthy and unloving.  We give them cookies sparingly to enjoy without the health risks and we teach them to share and give to others. 

Because children don’t fully know or understand that “too much of a good thing” can be very bad for you, we teach them the discipline of keeping their hands out of the jar as well as the concept of sharing once they’ve been given these wonderful treats. Both the discipline and the sharing are concepts rooted in love that we must learn or we will not know how to love.

I’ve seen numerous couples dating, living together, or married that have never been taught what it means to truly love. 

The Cookie Jar Explained

Stick with me as I explain.  How many of you were born selfless?  I hope no one raised his or her hand.  How many of you were born selfish?  I hope all of you raised your hands.  We are all born selfish and that must be overcome in order to love and build good relationships.  The natural inclination, as with the cookie jar, is that once we’ve found something we enjoy, based on our tastes or feelings, we want more of it with no desire to share, unless it benefits us.

While you can do cookies that way as a selfish person, at least until you run out, relationships of this manner never work long-term.  We have to be taught to be selfless, and if we are not, or we hold onto our selfish nature, it will show up in any and every relationship.  What does that look like? If you’re still not putting together the parable of The Cookie Jar, here it is.

I’ve seen numerous couples in relationship, even many walking down the aisle with their imaginary cookie jars tucked under their outside arms.  “I’ll give you one cookie if you give me two.”  This is all they’ve known or been taught as “love.”

Literally, I’ve seen this over and over. People are seldom, if ever, taught that the only way Love really works—sticking with our Cookie Jar analogy—is when we learn to say, “Here, you can have all my cookies.  That’s what I think of you, whether you give me any cookies or not.”  Obviously if you find someone not willing to share or give of themselves it’s not likely they are ready for a loving relationship.

Eventually you’ll figure out that those who never learned to love don’t share or give away their cookies without demanding more in return than were given.  You realize that this won’t work.  Over time the one who demands more than they give will eventually realize the person they’ve demanded from has run out long before they did—so they move on to the next person…and the next cookie jar.

Here’s the bottom line of The Cookie Jar seen from the perspective of God’s hesed/agape love.  Love is not give and take.  Love is give…period!  If I never learn to give and become selfless, if I only learn to take and demand or exact an exchange that’s at least equal but preferably in my favor, then I will never know love. 

Only when I learn to die to my selfishness and be willing to unconditionally give myself for the sake of others will I ever be able to love.  This is a lifelong pursuit.

That’s what Jesus did. He said, “Here, you can have all that I am (“all my cookies”).  I give my all to and for you.”  He doesn’t demand or coerce, He just loves.  The only way we can know that is to know Him and learn to love as He does.

With regard to dating, porneia/lust and love, remember that you must first learn and begin to die to self in order to love.  Then, not only can you love, but you can also help others know what it is and recognize it in others.  No matter what you see in another, no matter how “hot” they are or how much they may turn you on, remember that love is not defined as a feeling.  It has good and bad feelings associated with it.  Love is a commitment, a choice, and an act of the will.  And that is why discipleship (discipline, “Cookie Jar”) and love go hand in hand as much as the world abhors the thought of it and does everything to convince you otherwise.

I explain further with this from Theology of the Body by Christopher West.

The tendency to “grasp” seems built in to our fallen nature.  We can observe it even in little children.  For example, when my son asks for a cookie for dessert, before I can even get the cookie out of the box to present it to him as a gift, what does he do?  He grasps at it.  Taking advantage of this teachable moment, I might say to my son, “Hold on, you’re denying the gift.  Your papa loves you.  I want to give this cookie to you as a gift.  If you believed in the gift (and the giver…added and mine), all you would need to do is hold your hands out in confidence and receive the cookie as a gift.”  This is the problem with us all.  We do not trust enough in our Father’s love, so we grasp at the “cookie.”

Imagine what our marriages, families, and relationships would look like if we knew and practiced this kind of love, “Here, you can have all my cookies?”

The Cookie Jar in Real Life – “Who’d You Buy the Roses For?” 

I’d known this gentleman most of my adult life and we were great friends. You might even say we were best friends.  The Lord brought us together again after several years in our own marriage and family.  He approached me one Sunday evening at church and asked if we could meet and I said, “Absolutely!”

We spent some time catching up and he told me his marriage was falling apart and wanted to see what he could do to reconcile.  He did everything he could in humility and with grace but she left him for another person.  He did the typical rebound dating and within a fairly short time was in another “serious” relationship that ended in marriage and a second divorce within less than two years.

All I just shared is a brief setup for a great lesson that he has taken to heart and I pray you will as well.  When it comes to what real love is, the culture’s “give and take” definition of love is actually more lust and selfishness wrapped up in keeping score. First Corinthians 13:5 tells us that love does not keep records of wrongs, or keep score.  That’s the Cookie Jar mentality the world defines as love.

This man still had some things to work through and lessons to learn as he quickly jumped back into another “rebound” relationship.  It was this relationship that helped us both learn more about God’s kind of love.

After a few weeks of this couple dating and seeing each other nearly every day, she explained that the following week she would have to spend most of her time working due to the timing and demands.  She would not be able to see him and it was legit.  He understood, or so he thought. 

On Tuesday evening of that week he decided to surprise her by simply stopping by her condo and leaving her a dozen roses.  How romantic!  He wished her well and let her know he was thinking of and praying for her week and left the roses.

On Friday evening he showed up fully expecting her to be ready to go out on another date as the week had passed and she was free, in his mind; but she had promised to spend that night with her daughter. 

She was surprised to find him there when she opened the door.  There had been no communication, simply expectation and assumption.  She explained that this evening was going to be spent with her daughter and he graciously said he understood and left.

We met the next week as usual and he recounted the whole story of the week–the roses, the Friday night “rejection”–and as it had festered in his mind, he’d become quite agitated.  He couldn’t believe that she “stood him up” even though there was no date arranged.

We talked briefly about the communication side of things and he understood that his assumptions and expectations were guiding his emotional responses.  He was still frustrated and said to me, “I can’t believe after I left her alone all week–except for the roses and to tell her I was praying–that she would turn me down for a date on Friday.”

We’d been talking, as mentioned, about relationship, love, communication, and expectations.  I truly believe The Holy Spirit laid the next question on my mind so I said to him, “Let me ask you one question.”

“Sure,” he said.

“Who’d you buy the roses for?” I asked.

“For her, of course,” he retorted with a faint hint of disgust.

I repeated the question and he slowly and a little more thoughtfully repeated the same answer.

“I’ll ask one more time,” I said, “Who’d you really buy the roses for?”

He thought about it and it hit him, based on what we’d been discussing and how things had gone.  He looked at me and slowly and resignedly said, “I bought them for me, didn’t I?”

“Now you’re getting it.  Friday night proved that Tuesday night you were being nice so you’d get something in return,” I said.

That’s the culture’s description and modus operandi when it comes to so-called love.  But that’s really lust because we do things with the full expectation of a return.  God’s love, agape, is selfless and reaches out and serves regardless of the response or return.  It’s hard to grasp in our selfish flesh, but the love He gives to us and desires for us to share with others never takes into consideration the expectations or responses.  It gives us the full option to respond, but love continues even when others don’t respond or do so negatively.

We will have expectations because we’re human.  The reality is that expectations are the termites of relationships.  When we encounter unmet expectations we tend to define our partner, our relationships, and ourselves accordingly.   I’ve seen this played out over and over again whether it was roses, candy, gifts, sex, or any other cookies from the cookie jar.

In God’s design, we choose to give and love even when our expectations are not met. This is God’s kind of love that He desires for us to have in every relationship, but we must remember that apart from Christ we can’t love in this way.  Self gets in the way every time.

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Make it a great day and God bless in Christ!

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – God’s Love is defined simply as “Give – 100%; Expect 00!  What gets in your way of loving like Jesus?

Love and Lordship…Action Item(s) – 1) Determine how you’ve understood and acted on love…according to the world and self or according to God’s Word?  2) Pay close attention to how your own expectations impact those around you and your loving, or not so loving, responses to them; 3) Make it a habit to go to God’s Word in your study, prayer and quiet time to determine both of the previous items and how you will respond; 4) Confess your selfishness every time you give into it; 5) Ask and trust The Lord to change how you see love and how you act accordingly.