A few years ago I was driving a car full of church kids north for an adventure at Get Air when one of them said in the course of conversation in the car, “I feel like we never do anything fun anymore.” This is a true story.
Now Hope can be accused of a lot of things, and I certainly have my limitations and growing edges as a pastor, but the notion that a young person does not experience the church I serve as a place where young people can gather to have fun is simply astonishing to me. Almost offensive. When you consider that the words were uttered while we were in the car on our way to spend several hours at a trampoline park, they sound all the more amazing.
But they jive with a theory I have had for quite some time now that all of us throughout history are simply repeating our own versions of the story of the Israelites in the wilderness. In fact, I’ve frequently joked that if I were to write a book about church & pastoring the entire thing would be written on that premise:
The story of God and God’s people in the wilderness… continues to be our story today.
The human tendencies and behaviors have not changed, but fortunately for us neither has God’s faithfulness.
Here’s what I mean. As the Israelites journeyed through the wilderness from slavery to freedom it didn’t take them long to start complaining. In one case specifically: “the people became impatient on the way and they spoke against God and against Moses. The said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is not food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.”
Now if I’m Moses my first question is well which is it? Is there no food or do you detest this miserable food? It’s like a kid opening up the cupboard staring at boxes and bags and exclaiming, “There’s nothing to eat.”
When the Israelites were in the wilderness, God sent them Manna, Quail, and Water daily. God gave them food every day (except for Saturday, but God gave them double the day before to hold them over). True story. And of course God did not bring them out of Egypt to die, but they could not see the ways God was providing for their lives in every way. God covered them with clouds all day and led them by a pillar of fire by night. God vanquished their enemies. God was holding them in the palm of his hand, but apparently it was not to their satisfaction. [thank goodness they didn’t have yelp. Can you imagine the review they would have given God… 1 star. The ground is hard as a rock and the bread, while high in nutritional value is devoid of flavor.]
Here’s what it means for us. We too have our “there’s nothing to eat moments.” Our “We never do anything fun anymore” complaints. Our moments of impatience and ingratitude. Those times our vision is clouded and we become obsessed with what we perceive we lack, rather than mindful of all that God provides and all that we have. Those times we determine God is late.
The story of the Israelites reminds us of two things. 1. This behavior is sin. We’re not entitled to it. It’s not justified. And all sin comes with consequences. For the Israelites that consequence was peril and death… snakes (yikes). All sin leads to death. But, here is the other thing, this story reminds us that even in our sinfulness and brokenness we get to see how good God is.
In these days of anxiousness when we are all waiting for the end of this time of uncertainty, it can be easy to grow impatient and cry out against God. May we resist the temptation, and instead look deeper for the ways God is with us all along.
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