I have a class this year I particularly love. It's the kind of class where you put on a random music playlist for lab day only to look up and see them all dancing in perfect time to "Call Me Maybe." Even the quiet ones have a little head bop going. It is a rare mix of students that can mix laughter and work without losing one or the other, and we have a lot of fun doing the strangest things. Yesterday I was teaching vector addition using the component method (aren't you jealous?) because I'm about to begin projectile motion and forces (again, I can sense your jealousy). It is easily the most difficult and least exciting class because it's all math and we can't quite shoot anything yet. We basically work three problems in ninety minutes, but at the end of class I look around, and every single one of the students is thinking and wrestling and working together and sort of getting it and learning. And every single one of us needs a nap because we did more thinking in ninety minutes than most people do all week. Even if they never really get vector addition (and some may not), I feel like I've given them practice in how to engage in a difficult problem in an energizing way. That lesson is much more useful to learn than vector addition. Sweet. Now I can retire, or at least take a nap while my next class builds robots.
I've been meditating on the topic of desire for some time now as God has been teaching me about the inner recesses of my heart. It's pretty ugly in there. Working through Exodus has been eye opening. For the past few days I've been looking at Exodus 15-17, where God provides water and manna for the Israelites in the wilderness. There's a strange tension here that never really gets resolved throughout the whole Bible. The tension between asking and receiving.
Look at the Israelites. They're stranded in the desert with no water and lots of people and livestock. It's hot, it's smelly, everyone's thirsty. It isn't really that surprising that they grumbled and moaned instead of skipping up to Moses and using their best manners with the qualifier, "if it's your will, Lord." They really were going to die if they didn't get water. And God came through, despite their lack of manners, yet he continued to point out that his provision was a test to see if they would diligently listen to the voice of the Lord. And they don't. They try to hoard the manna. They go out on the Sabbath to "get ahead" instead of resting. Anything they're told not to do, they try it like a bunch of mindless sheep, just in case God was wrong.
um... conviction, maybe?
And, if that weren't enough conviction, then Jesus had to go and call himself the bread of heaven in John 6. He feeds 5,000 people and they follow him because they want more. I'm assuming most of them could have gone back home and had something to eat. It wasn't really a dire situation, but why not follow this dude who just creates food out of nothing because that is way easier than working for it? Jesus calls them out on it, pointing out they're just following him to get something, and they need to go work for food that doesn't spoil. Not only does he not give them more food, he tells them to get to work for God, not for earthly food. And you know what, the people are okay with that. They're willing to work, but they want to know exactly what to do to get what they want. They're willing to be plenty polite and respectful, as long as Jesus will give them what they want. When Jesus tells them the work of God is to believe in Jesus, they're okay with that too... As long as Jesus is willing to work another miracle (I mean, just one more so I can be REALLY be sure...). Lo and behold, the miracle they ask for is more bread, "after all," they say, "Moses gave us manna, what can you give us that's better?" Needless to say the conversation degenerates from there because the people following Jesus here are only interested in whether he can give them what they want. The crowds end up leaving because they can't get what they want, so they go elsewhere to find it.
And I'm struck at how God gives us what we need, no matter how much grumbling we do, but he will not give us everything we want no matter how polite we ask or how much we conform to a set of outward rules. But even his provision is a way of testing us to see if we are faithful. Do I hoard what he's given me today? Do I try to get ahead when I should be resting? Do I grumble because the manna he gives me today is the same as it was yesterday? Do I turn away or grow weary or complain because he hasn't given me what I wanted today? The answer to all of these is yes, of course.
Later in Numbers 11 it talks about how the people of Israel grumbled about how boring the manna was, and they were longing for the cucumbers and melons of Egypt. I may have laughed a little out loud at that verse, but I'd pay serious money for Quinn to fondly long for a cucumber. I've noticed in my heart that I have been complaining the same way lately. I am grateful for the Lord's provision. I am aware of the Lord's provision, but does it really have to look like this? Couldn't it be more exciting, romantic, adventurous?
When I first began to know the Holy Spirit, he was doing a lot of work on my outward attitudes and words. And though he still has a long way to go, I can now blend in pretty well in Christian circles. The state of my heart is a different story, as it has been largely neglected through self-delusion and blindness. It's like God is rubbing his hands together and saying, "It's time to get down to business." Because what I say and how I say it doesn't concern God nearly as much as whether the desires of my heart are aligned with his desires for me.
Because my awesome class is teaching me that when I teach something mind numbingly difficult like vector addition with components, it helps to be a good teacher with good lesson plans, but what really matters is that my class is ready and willing to go there with a good attitude. Am I willing to jump into my life and engage with the difficult parts because that is what God wants me to be doing right now? Or will I grumble and complain to get what I want? Or maybe retreat into my exterior conformity and argue that I deserve something better? I think today I've decided to join my awesome class for a brief dance party in the midst of a mind-numbingly difficult life, rejoicing in every last circumstance God has given me, especially the tough ones.