A few days ago, Jess, the kids and I were headed home from having dinner with some friends and we decided to stop for Krispy Kreme donuts along the way. As we were making our way through the drive-thru, before we had even arrived at the window and received our box of sugary goodness, Hannah pipes up from the back seat with a bit of urgency/panic in her voice "Daddy, I want a donut too!" Of course, I had no intention of ordering a dozen of the most delicious things on this earth and not sharing them with my children. However, the tone in Hannah's voice conveyed to me that she was not so sure of this.
While this trip through Krispy Kreme's drive-thru didn't exactly provoke some kind of deep existential angst about my parenting ability, it did cause me to wonder why Hannah's first assumption was that I wouldn't share with her. Didn't she remember that this was her daddy she was talking to? Couldn't she just rest in the knowledge that I would share any good thing with her and that if didn't I share it with her it was because I thought it wouldn't be good for her? And yes, in the few seconds that these questions were shooting through my mind I also remembered that she is only 3 and that such calm in the presence of such a strong desire is too much to ask of a 3 year old.
The truth is it often seems to be too much to ask of most adults as well. In Exodus 17, the people of Israel are grumbling against Moses because they don't have any water to drink. They say to Moses "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?" On the face of it, that's actually not a bad question. After all, no water in the middle of the desert is a pretty seriously problem. I'd probably be grumbling too. But what makes this grumbling so sad, so short-sighted is that the people of Israel have already seen what God can do. God just delivered these powerless slaves from the most powerful nation on earth. God just displayed his complete sovereignty over creation through powerful plagues of hail, frogs, gnats, blood, darkness, and even the firstborn of every Egyptian family. Then God provided pillars of cloud and fire for guidance, made a path in the Red Sea for crossing, and provided manna from heaven for eating. In fact, this wasn't even Israel's first grumbling specifically about water. Just two chapters earlier God empowered Moses to turn the bitter waters of Marah sweet so that the people could drink. One might think that after the Israelites had seen God handle all of that they wouldn't be too worried about a little water shortage. They might reason "Hey, we don't have water but God has taken care of bigger problems than this. He'll take care of us again." Nope. Just more grumbling.
Of course, we often don't do much better ourselves. God has provided for us over and over again. So many of us have never even known real need, the kind of need one might experience without water in the wilderness. But when even a hint of trouble shows up, when just the chance of our standard of living being lowered comes along we fret. We worry. We grumble and complain. In those times I have to imagine that God wants to say to us "Don't you remember that this is your daddy you are talking to? Doesn't all your past experience tell you that I'll take care of you?"
As we awaited our treats in the Krispy Kreme drive-thru, I decided to tease Hannah about her uncertainty as to whether she would receive a donut. I turned to her and said in a mock seriousness "What kind of daddy do you think I am? Did you really think I was going to order a whole bunch of donuts and not let you have one?" Hearing my serious tone she got kind of a worried look on her face which then began to fade away as she thought about what I had actually said. Then realizing that I was obviously going to share with her a big smile came across her face and she said "Nooo" as if what moments ago had been such a major concern to her was now the silliest and most absurd thing she could think of. Shortly thereafter we were all enjoying these little, round frosted wonders together.
Obviously, I would be a pretty immature parent if I had taken Hannah's lack of faith in me personally and prevented her from having a donut because of it. Yet, it seems that is how we often think of God. If God were really as simplistic as some theologies make him out to be then he would have simply punished the people of Israel for their grumbling and lack of faith. Instead, God does just the opposite. God provides for the people of Israel once again in spite of their immaturity and failure to trust. This passage points us toward the reality that our relationship with God is just that: a relationship, a nuanced, sometimes complex, always mysterious relationship with the almighty God of the universe. What it certainly is not is a system of rewards and punishments for good or bad behavior. It is a relationship where God sometimes provides for us even when we fail to trust him and one where God sometimes asks us to trust him when it seems like he is not providing for us at all. God faithfulness often overcomes our own unfaithfulness but he also asks to place our trust in him and not in the things he provides.