What Are You Reaching For?

I had been eying the iridescent green bottle on the top shelf of the linen closet for days. It was out of reach ... and therefore desirable. To my three-year-old eyes, the glass bottle of Bactine looked fascinating.

So it was one day, with my mother otherwise occupied, I made the ascent from base camp to summit, clawing upward past blankets and towels toward the prize at the top.

It looked even better in my hand. But every little tike assumes the best things in life come via the mouth. So, of course I drank the whole bottle. My mother found me wandering the hallway looking green and worried.

There was no 911 service available in those ancient days — we didn't even have a telephone. So we took a not-so-leisurely drive to the doctor's office where, up on the exam table, I vented the remaining fumes with a long, sonorous BURP, a practice I have since refined.

End of story: I experienced no other negative (or positive) effects from my experience. You might think the internal dousing of antiseptic would have immunized me against all future infections. No such luck. Nor was I immediately deterred from other questionable objects of desire.

In fact, a year or so later, curiosity again won out in Cradle Roll. Singing a little song about wonderful things God had made, the teacher brought around a plate with different sorts of fruit for us to hold during the song. Coveting was not officially permitted in Sabbath School, but I had nonetheless been honing for weeks a long-term attraction to a luscious-looking pear on that plate. Like the unfortunate cripple at the Pool of Bethesda, someone had always got to it first. But not this time. And while the teacher had her back turned, I took a surreptitious bite, and discovered (duh!) ... a wax pear no doubt handled by dozens of chubby hands over decades. It was awful, nasty and an abrupt education.

Early on I learned perceptions can be skewed. What you think you see is not always what you get. What you reach for can be a snare. What you want is not always best. The Bible is replete with examples.

Eve got her apple. Esau got his lentils. Moses got his water. David got Bathsheba. But they all lost so much more in the "getting."

If, as Ellen White observes, God's ideal is "higher than the highest human thought," perhaps their problem and our problem is in allowing misguided desire to limit our reach. God's word comes ringing down through the ages, still true: "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?" (Isaiah 55:2, NKJV)

What are you reaching for?

"Coveting was not officially permitted in Sabbath School, but I had nonetheless been honing for weeks a long-term attraction to a luscious-looking pear."

February 01, 2010 / Let's Talk
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