Lots of people like weddings. I like wedding receptions. There’s something about the saltiness of mixed nuts combined with sweet, buttery taste of wedding mints. (My grandmother has a fantastic recipe for molded wedding mints, made with cream cheese and powdered sugar, but that’s another story.) When there’s just enough cake to prop up the frosting of a corner slice, and the punch is fresh, fruity, and fizzy, I’m in a sugar-happy haze.
Oh, and I’m happy for the bride and groom, I guess. But, let’s be real, here: they’re going off into a brand-new adventure, figuring out what marriage means, and – except for the thank-you note I obliged them to write by buying something from their registry – they won’t even think about me after they drive off in a few hours. So, why not enjoy the party that they planned and fretted over?
But, one can take this too far. Imagine if I liked wedding receptions so much that I just crashed the weddings of other people that I didn’t even know. Sure, there wouldn’t be a seat reserved for me, and no “chicken or fish” placecard, but I could just hover around the buffet and sneak out into the hallway or parking lot (during the speeches) to finish the food on my plate.
However, other than those who like comedy movies (and perhaps never planned their own wedding reception), most people would consider me a bit of a freeloader – a buffoon exploiting a lot of hard work by people who had no intention of sharing with me. It would be arrogant to think, just because I was good at making small talk with people and pretending that I was a cousin from a distant side of the family (or a friend from school), that I somehow deserved to feast at other people’s expense.
While life on earth is often hard, we can still enjoy a lot of blessings on earth every day. We may enjoy the sun on our face, and the rain on our roof. We can appreciate the majesty of mountains, and the power of the sea. We get just the right mix of oxygen in our atmosphere to take a deep breath (although not when driving by certain exits on the highway), and have everything we need to live (even if humankind doesn’t always share these life-giving necessities among its members very well).
However, we can enjoy the blessings of God daily, but still miss out on the life He wants us to experience. It’s possible to live a pretty healthy life – getting our share of air, food, water, shelter, and exercise – but miss out on lasting purpose, personal fulfillment, and living up to our full potential.
While the Israelites were wandering in the desert, they received daily bread (with bonus food on Fridays, so that they didn’t have to harvest any on the Sabbath), water in the middle of the desert, and birds practically laying out where they could just pick them up to cook and eat. Furthermore, their clothes didn’t even wear out during the multi-decade journey. If that’s not a blatant demonstration of God’s provision, I’m not sure what else someone could ask for.
Still, even when enjoying these gifts, not all of the Israelites chose to live as God intended. They complained. They whined. They worshiped idols that never gave them a crumb. I’m not saying that all of them were like this, but there were people who ate food that was provided for them miraculously, and still missed out on the joy of living out the plan given by the One who supplied them with everything they needed to do so.
God still provided for this sort of people, though, just as He does today.
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Matthew 5:44-45 NASB
In the same way, it occurs to me that we might be eating manna (or experiencing the blessings of the created universe and the community of the human race), but not actually getting to know God through His Son. Whether or not we try to follow Jesus, we might be loading up on what God provides, without actually taking advantage of His offer to show us how to maximize our role in His great script.