Saturday, July 11, 2015

Grumbling in My Tent

I really dislike Tuesdays. I'm not a huge fan of the rest of the work week, but I really dislike Tuesdays. Tuesday is my first day of the week. Tuesday is Monday, but Monday is Sunday; so Mondays are ok -- for me anyway -- but Tuesdays? Eyuck.  This past Tuesday I was in a particularly unpleasant mood: aside from the calendar, my daughter and her husband were in town, and I was unable to have the day off -- not that we would actually be doing much at that hour of the day, but sometimes I really hate going to bed earlier than most four year-olds. So, I had to work; I'd been to a funeral days before that set me to thinking about my mother's advanced age; my husband was in a funk over some things he was experiencing; I had dealt with some family drama that will result in some permanent changes, and I'd dealt with some family drama that will not change anything at all; and last but not least, I was sick. Rotten Tuesday across the board.

A couple of days later I was reading Psalm 106:24-25:

                         "The people refused to enter the pleasant land,
                           for they wouldn't believe His promise to care for them.
                           Instead they grumbled in their tents,
                           and refused to obey the Lord."

Now, the pleasant land was the land God had promised to His people long ago; a land "flowing with milk and honey." If you think about the production of milk, it can only be produced in abundance ("flowing") if the animals are healthy, well-fed and well cared for. According to Jewish Midrash, milk symbolizes superior quality, richness of taste, and nourishment. When we think of fruit nectar, as some suspect was meant by "honey," it can only flow in likewise fertile, well-maintained lands. Bees' honey is extremely sweet and versatile, and its cost is evidence of the scarcity and labor intensive production of quality honey. In short, why would anyone in their right mind refuse to go there?!

Briefly, sin puts us in a very wrong mind -- usually a self-indulgent mind, a mind that insists on doing things strictly in a way most comfortable or familiar to it. It's not easy to trust the unseen; many people would choose a familiar slavery over an unknown freedom. I might refuse dessert (a pleasant thing) because of the consequences (its unhealthy or fatty nature that contradicts its pleasantness). The pleasant things of God however, can have no downside because He Himself is only good. Refusing the goodness of God calls into question His very nature, as if there can be a hidden liability.

So what did the Israelites who called God's nature into question do? They dug in. Like petulant children who know little but self, impulse, ignorance and immaturity, they grumbled in their tents and refused to obey God. I don't know if you're a camper, but I love camping -- it's staying in the tent I don't like so much. It's crowded, the ground is lumpy, and then there's that smell. And that's twenty-first century camping! Let's face it, it was a desert, these people were accompanied by many animals, and they didn't use deodorant -- the animals or the people! So because God wanted things done His way, because they were in the wrong mind, they refused a land flowing with milk and honey, and chose to grumble in their hot, smelly, crowded tents instead.

Immediately my mind went back to Tuesday. What did I do with all those hurt, annoyed, uncomfortable, ugly feelings? I did, I laid them at the feet of the only One who can do anything good with them. I learned (the hard way, of course) a long time ago, grumbling in my tent gets me nothing but sweaty, smelly, and possibly eaten by a bear.

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