This week’s guest blogger is Eric von Mizener, the writer of the blog The Psalm 51 Miracle.
Eric offered this post, which was originally published on his blog here and I LOVED it. To be able to work a lesson from the life of Moses into not getting a chocolate covered ice cream cone is a work of pure genius. I’d absolutely recommend that you follow Eric on Twitter (@Psalm51) and drop by his blog to read what he has to say. He really has some wonderful insight. I’m so glad to have met him here in cyberspace. Maybe one day I’ll meet him in the real world too! So, over to Eric and…
Moses and My Ice Cream Cone
Sometimes all it takes is something as simple as an ice cream cone. It may sound silly, but that’s the way it goes. You see, the enemy will use anything – anything – to rob us of our joy in God. That’s because he knows that once he does that, we will probably turn in on ourselves with self-praise, self-pity, fleshly desires, worldly concerns or whatever. And once we’ve done that, we’ve removed ourselves from the presence of God. A few days ago he got me to do it, and all it took was an ice cream cone.
Ice cream is a rare treat in our house. It doesn’t fit in our diets, it doesn’t have a place in our budget and, let’s face it, it’s just not that important. (Especially since our evening treat usually involves popcorn.) But the other day there was ice cream in the house. And, not just ice cream, but ice cream cones with vanilla and chocolate ice cream covered with chocolate and nuts. Yum. And, we’d been saving them. I’d been savoring the idea of that cone for quite awhile. Then Carol called me on my cell phone and said that she’d fed the cones to the grandkids. Ack! My cone was gone! And, to top it off, the kids refused to eat the nuts and chocolate coating. My cone was wasted.
So that not all would be lost, she sent me off to the store to get some more. That made me feel better. My promised treat would not be lost. But, being a hot Friday in June, the store was completely out – no ice cream cone for me.
How can this be? It was just an ice cream cone. And I bought some perfectly good ice cream sandwiches that kept everybody happy. Except me. Yikes.
This was a perfect example of our memories being used to pull us away from God. Over the years I’ve experienced loss in multiple forms. Relationships have ended badly, businesses have failed, and my finances once even wound up in bankruptcy and my house was foreclosed on. But, that was all long ago. Life is good now. Life is stable. So how did that ice cream cone bring it all back?
Because, as part of me was willing to believe, this was a pattern of take-aways in my life. A pattern of losses. A certain indicator that life mistreats me. Like I said, it was an instant sense of dejection.
Of course, you can probably smell the pride coming out of all those self-pitying statements. As if life owes me a chocolate nut ice cream cone. As if it is reasonable to lose my trust in the grace of God because something I’d been looking forward to was not to be. At least not yet.
Of course, it wasn’t just pride. There was also a bit of gluttony involved. That ice cream cone, and my subsequent morose, was a prime example of the tyranny of the stomach. Had I not just gone through the Lenten fast? And yet this brought me down.
I was not on my guard. And we need to be ever vigilant.
Sometimes we pass the small tests. Sometimes we don’t. Now, granted, this was a small thing. But small things build up to large and how we handle the small things prepares us to handle the larger things in life. This is where Moses comes in.
In Numbers 20, the people are agitating against Moses and God again. Again. They have come to the Desert of Sin where “nothing is sown, neither figs nor vines nor pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink (20:5 SAAS).” Sounds like a more legitimate gripe than an ice cream cone – although they may have appreciated something cold there in the desert. Of course, Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before God in the tabernacle and the glory of God appeared to them. Next thing you know, Moses is hitting a rock with his rod and water is pouring forth. The peoples worries are over.
Granted, there’s far more to be learned from these events than not to weep over an ice cream cone. But there is something in common, and it is something that I allowed myself to forget. The people chose frustration instead of thanksgiving. God had brought them out of slavery, parted the Red Sea, fed them manna and so forth. And they were complaining. Again. God has done so much for me, and yet I lost sight of it because I wouldn’t get my ice cream cone.
Now, these temptations come all the time. It might be a sense of loss, like mine. Or it may be something else. The point is not to lose our sense of thanksgiving to the Lord. Not to choose the frustration of the moment as I did along with the Israelites. We need to take advantage of our temptations as opportunities to flee back to our God and give him thanks. In this testing and renewing of grace we become better servants.
So let us pray without ceasing and examine our thoughts. Like Moses and Aaron, we need to fall on our faces and pray. Elder Joseph the Hesychast writes that “with every word we say, with every step we take, at every moment of night and day, examine if perhaps we do, say, or think something that is not pleasing to Christ.” Especially, he adds, if one “wants to walk the straight and narrow way of our Lord and reach perfection.” And that’s a journey I want to take. But if there’s ice cream along the way, it’s just an added blessing.