Tumbling in the Sand
“The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.” – Numbers 21:7
Note to self: whining doesn’t get you very far.
But, geez, it’s nice to occasionally get a good whine in: about how things aren’t going the way you’d hoped or how things have changed or how it’s just not the same anymore or how I don’t ever get my way. I love to whine about the weather when it’s not warm enough for me. I love to whine about international politics and national politics and local politics (when I understand more of it—this would be a challenge for someone who moves around a lot). I love to whine about how hard it is to get decent vegan options in the local grocery store or in restaurants. I love to whine about all sorts of things … and people, I admit: I whine about people sometimes too.
But whining hurts—it actually comes back to bite. Whining focuses me on the negative. Whining makes me miss out on the amazing good that is happening around me.
Just think about those Israelites for a bit: they were whining that they were no longer enslaved because the alternative was the wilderness. And not just any wilderness: a wilderness where God rained bread on them every day; a wilderness where water occasionally flowed out of dry rocks. And none of that was new—it had been doing it for ages. The Israelites were whining because they were sick and tired of being in the wilderness. Note: they even contradict themselves: “…there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Really? The gifts that God was raining from heaven weren’t good enough. The freedom to be a people and the identity of the law wasn’t good enough. The faithful leadership of Moses wasn’t good enough. The protection of God leading in a pillar of fire and cloud wasn’t good enough. Miserable even…?
But, I think I can relate. I think I can understand how easy it is to miss the blessings that God pours down from the skies and get caught up in my grumbling, my whining, my negativity. I forget to look at the sun. I forget to notice the flowers peaking out their head or enjoy the beauty of the flakes of snow when they fall. I forget the joy that I receive from community and how much I actually care about the people I’m blessed to know. I forget how how vast and beautiful the world is. I forget about how amazing so many voices of faith speaking and singing together from around the world are and that I am blessed to be a part of that community. I forget that God has freed me and surrounds me in love and guidance and protection.
It’s so easy to forget…and whine. Is there a solution for this? Some easy way to make it stop? To make ourselves stop? About all I get from the texts is this: repentance and prayer … and, well, most importantly: the grace of God. That’s not so easy (I think grace is way harder than law because we don’t have any control over grace). And, it seems, at least based on this story, the snakes don’t go away just because we pray and repent. We aren’t left with only God’s blessings and none of our own back-biting negativity … but maybe it’s just enough—just enough to turn us to look up and out and remind us that God’s blessings are abundant and more than enough for us.