Enjoying the Present
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The manna that God provided for the Jews as they journeyed through the desert was a wonder food. It could taste like just about anything you wanted. It digested perfectly, and it fell, free from the sky. But there was just one catch - it came fresh each day, and there was only enough for that day. Even if you wanted to hoard some of it away just in case, it didn't help; it would spoil. God did it this way to teach us to trust in Him, be grateful that we have what we need for today, and not be overly worried about the future. There is nothing wrong with thinking or planning ahead for the future, but we shouldn't worry about it so much that we can never enjoy all the good of the present.
In our story, we meet a girl who finds herself torn between the present and the future.
"JUST IN CASE"
"Amy, get your head out of your backpack and check out this awesome scenery!"
My friends might have been laughing but I didn't care. I was prepared for anything, and that was just the way I liked it. It was our class trip, and all the kids were looking out the window, oo-ing and ah-ing as the bus wound its way along the scenic mountain roads on the way to the nature reserve. It may have been pretty, but I had no time to look. I had more important things to do.
I went through my backpack and checked off everything on the list, one by one. Bug spray? Check. Emergency flares? (Who knows? We could all get lost and need them to get rescued at night!) Check. Malaria pills? Check. (I knew that people usually only got malaria in tropical jungles, but you could never be sure, could you? Better safe than sorry.) The bus pulled up just as I finished my checklist. I was truly ready for whatever the future might bring.
We made our way down the trail. Soon we came to a stream, and some of the kids bent down to drink. "Wait!" I cried out, just in time. Everyone jumped back, and looked at me questioningly, as I dug through my backpack, or my 'just-in-case' case, as I liked to call it. Ah, there it was - my professional water-testing kit.
"You can't just go ahead and drink the water!" I scolded. "Who knows if it's poison, or something? Let me just test the water. It will only take ten minutes or so until the results show up. Meanwhile we can all practice a first-aid drill, or something." I was sure everyone would thank me for saving them, but instead, they just giggled, shook their heads, and stuck their hands in the water to drink!
Well I wasn't going to drink untested water, that's for sure. As I began to fill up one of the test-tubes, our guide, Sandy, came over. "Amy, I'm sure you have good intentions, and if this was an unknown stream you would be right, but I think it's really okay. I've been hiking this trail for years, and this water is fresh and pure. If there was a problem, the park rangers would put up a notice."
"But how can you be 100% sure?" I argued. "Maybe something's wrong this time."
The guide smiled. "It's great you want to be careful... I also try to be. But we're being reasonably careful here. And besides - we're not alone. God is watching out for us. So why not trust Him and enjoy the beautiful world He gave us? Come and enjoy a cool, refreshing drink with the rest of us."
I saw she was trying to be nice, but nothing doing. If there was the slightest chance, I wasn't going to take it. I went on with my test, but it was time to move on before the results came in, so I settled for some of the sterilized water I had brought with me instead. To tell you the truth, it didn't taste so good, and the stream did look refreshing, but I didn't want to risk it - just in case...
We went back to the bus for lunch, and then it dropped us off at the next trail from where we would hike to meet up with it on the other end. All the kids seemed so relaxed and bubbly, but if anything, I was extra nervous. After all, so many things could go wrong in the woods. We got to an open field, and though everyone else just started laughing and romping through it, I bent down to take a good look at the plants. They seemed innocent enough, but I once heard that some plants are poisonous, and can cause people who step on them to break out in hives. Good thing I had my plant identification book. I went to open my just-in-case case and panicked. Not only wasn't the book there, but it wasn't even my backpack! In the jumble getting off the bus after lunch, I had grabbed the wrong bag and left mine there!
I froze in my tracks. "C'mon Amy, we're all waitin' for you!" called out one of my friends from across the meadow. What would I do now? How could I just walk through a field of potentially poisonous plants? Still, I couldn't stay there forever. I remembered Sandy's words: "We're not alone... Why not trust Him?" It looked like this time I had no choice.
I slowly tip-toed my way across like I was in a mine field. I stared down at my feet. I sure didn't know which plants were what, but I had to admit ... they were pretty. I saw tall purple flowers, and smaller orange and yellow ones in between. As I went on, I began to feel a bit more relaxed. After all, I reasoned, everyone had walked through, and they looked all right. Maybe there really was no reason to worry - after all, we weren't alone.
We hiked on, and I began to notice for the first time how beautiful everything was. I was usually so busy testing things and looking them up that I hadn't had the time to notice. As we got close to the end of the trail, we were all pretty tired and thirsty as we reached another stream. Like before, the kids started to drink and I instinctively reached for my bottle of lukewarm water. I was about to take a sip, but felt my eyes drawn to the stream. The cool, flowing water looked so much more appealing. If only I could test it...
I raised the bottle to my lips, then lowered it again. I glanced up and saw Sandy looking my way. I looked into her smiling eyes, and then looked longingly at the stream. She must have understood because she nodded her head and silently mouthed the words, "Amy, it's okay." I took a deep breath, bent down, cupped my hands and drank. It was the sweetest, most delicious water I had ever tasted! Maybe I had been a bit too cautious after all.
When we got to the bus, I went to my seat and sure enough, there was my case. Suddenly it looked over-stuffed and silly to me. I decided that next time, I'm not going to bring nearly as much 'emergency' stuff along. I'm still going to be responsible and cautious, but I'm not going to let every possible worry stop me from trusting in the present instead of fearing for the future.
Q. How did Amy feel when she first saw the stream?
A. She was worried that something might be wrong with the water, even though it seemed fine.
Q. How did she feel about it in the end?
A. She felt that even though she wasn't 100% sure, since everything seemed fine she could trust that God was watching out for her and it was really okay to drink.
Q. Was Amy right to have been so super safety conscious?
A. Caution is a positive trait. But like anything else it can be taken to an extreme. God wants us to be careful and responsible, but to also take reasonable risks when necessary, and enjoy and appreciate life rather than fear it.
Q. Can we ever be 100% certain of what the future will bring?
A. We can often assume what the future is likely to bring by observing the present. We can even do things to help make things turn out in a certain way. But even with all that, we can never be certain. At some point we have to just go on with life and trust that God will make things turn out as they should.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think our relationship with God would be closer or more distant if we always had what we needed or wanted ahead of time?
A. We might think it would make us closer, but ironically it is often the things we lack that lead us to turn to God. We ask Him to fulfill them, and ultimately learn to trust in His response. That is the lesson of the manna, and it forms the basis of a strong and vibrant relationship.
Q. What can a person do to strengthen his relationship to God in a world of uncertainties?
A. A time-tested and highly effective tool is to do what we would to improve any relationship: talk it out. By talking to God, like we would a friend, expressing our concerns and asking for advice, we will open up a channel of closeness that we didn't know we had. Soon we will feel God with us wherever we are. This is a great source of strength and will improve our lives.