Four-year-old twin grandsons Jamie and David are having lunch with us. We are having fresh sliced peaches along with our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. David announces with great certainty, “I don’t like peaches.”
We ask, “Have you ever tasted fresh peaches?”
“No.” With one small finger he pushes his little dish of peaches toward the edge of his place mat. We try again. “How do you know you don’t like peaches if you have never tasted any?”
“I just know,” he insists.
David would have fit in well with the Israelites. In the Old Testament reading for the first Sunday in August, the Israelites are fed up with Moses, with God and with life in the desert. It’s hot and they are tired and hungry. They do what people have always done when life gets uncomfortable. They complain. Grumbling is their way of asking, “Are we there, yet?” No, they are not, and they won’t be “there” for a long time. They still have a lot of desert to cross physically and spiritually. A week later, in the readings for the second Sunday, Elijah is being pursued by enemies. He finds himself exhausted in the desert and he, too, is grumbling: “Oh Lord! I’ve had enough!”
Not much has changed since the Israelites and Elijah came to the end of their rope in the desert. This summer we have grumbled about the heat, the storms and the bugs. As soon as winter arrives, we’ll complain about the cold, the snow and our aches and pains. Grumbling about things we can’t control seems to be a national pastime. Like the Israelites and Elijah, we grumble if our work isn’t going well, or we are exhausted from dealing with things we can’t change. This is still as true for God’s people as it is for anyone else.
Perhaps God in His mercy hears our grumbling as a form of prayer. God provided manna for the hungry Israelites even though they still had to wander through the desert to get to the Promised Land. Elijah would never have encountered the still small voice of God on the mountain if he hadn’t eaten what God had provided and then kept putting one foot in front of the other.
In the heat of August, it’s easy to want to put down whatever burden we must carry and take time to grumble. Like Elijah we may be at the point of saying, “Enough, Lord!” We want someone else to notice what a hard time we’re having.
The Promised Land is always on the other side of the desert. We do have a choice. We can turn our grumbling into prayer and continue our journey knowing God is with us regardless of our circumstances. Now, if we can only find a way to get David to taste fresh peaches…
Deacon Jim and Ann Cavera live in Bowling Green. They write both separately and together and are the authors of “Grounded in God,” available through Liguori publishing or Amazon.com.