Shel Silverstein wrote the lyrics to a song that tells of a man who made it all. He was living what our society would call the good life. He could have whatever he wanted. Only, the narrator in the song found him in a greasy spoon restaurant eating beans. So, he asked his rich friend, “What are you doing eating beans here when you can eat in the finest restaurants in the world?” The response was a reminder of dealing with life in general. “After you’ve been havin’ steak for a long time beans, beans taste fine.” We all like a little variety in our lives and the truth is that it’s easy to get stuck in a rut.
Sometimes those ruts come because of circumstances. Usually people without variety in their diets live that way because they are scraping by. I can’t tell you how many people I have met who don’t like a particular food because when they were living during bad times, that was all they ate. Tuna fish, Ramen Noodles, beans and rice are all on the “never again” list for some people. The Israelites were heading towards the Promised Land and God provided manna to feed them. The problem was, that was all they ate for a long time. They remembered the food from Egypt and began to gripe about the manna. “The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’” (Numbers 11:4-6)
If you ask some people how they’re doing they may sigh and say, “Same ol’ same ol’.” Nothing changes. Life is always the same. We may have more variety in our diet than manna, but nothing changes. We beg for something to happen interesting. You hear it in church when people say things like, “Lord, let something happen that isn’t in the bulletin.” We crave routine, but we also crave variety, not seeing the inherent contradiction between those two desires. We always want something more. Something bigger. Something better. The wandering Israelites were led by Moses who spoke to God face to face. Aaron was the high priest. Miriam was honored among the people. It wasn’t enough for them. (Chapter 12) They rebelled against the leadership of Moses because, well, Moses wasn’t perfect. Look who he married. (As an aside here, I can say I got one up on Moses, there.) There were other cases of rebellion against Moses and against God throughout the journey because, well, things just weren’t good enough, gosh darn it, and change needed to happen.
I’ve heard often that the Chinese people have a curse: “May you live in interesting times.” The truth is that sometimes what makes life interesting are hard times. How often do people talk about “the good old days” and as they go on, you realize that they’re talking about those days of hard times when all they had to eat was manna…er…beans and rice. We look back on times like that as the good old days because we overcame those “interesting times.” The message in all of this is not to settle down to eat manna. In the history of Israel, they only ate the manna while they were wandering in the desert. The key is to get to that point in life when you can deal with the interesting times and experience God’s presence every day in all your ways. When the Israelites got to the Promised Land, the manna stopped and they ate the fruit of the land as they began to live in interesting times. As you live in interesting times, may you always experience God’s presence.
Oh Lord, we don’t want to face troubles, but we don’t want life to be boring. Remind me of how You walk with me through the ups and downs of life. Let me be grateful for Your provision in my life.