My first job was working in an after school day care program at a local elementary school. I started this job while I was a junior in high school and worked there for ten years. I have learned a lot about children. From watching many children through the years and taking note of their parents' interaction with those children, I have learned much about how to raise and how not to raise children. At this point in my life and marriage, I do not have children but I have an older sister who has two kids that I try to spend time with as much as possible. My niece is five years old while my nephew is two and they refer to me as Unc--a shortened form of uncle. When they are around, they receive most of my attention because I want them to know that I love them, know I care about them, know I want to see them happy and laughing, and know that I'm going to treat them just like I will treat my own children someday. If they could express it to you, they would tell you that they have their Unc wrapped around their fingers.
Recently our family gathered for an annual family reunion followed by a couples wedding shower for my little brother who will be getting married in a couple of months. Of course, my nephew wanted all of my attention during this time and, yes, I played with him, chased him around, and tickled as much as he could stand. All was good; he loved every minute of the attention and fun. After some time of conversing it was time to eat. Let me explain something: my family may not be good at any other task, but we can cook and we can eat. We are a typical large southern family where every function revolves around food--too much food. My nephew, like the rest of the family, was hungry. We prayed over the food and people started making plates. There was pulled pork, fried chicken, spaghetti, brisket, peas, beans, okra, plus every other side you could think of, and another buffet set up for desserts. While I'm getting hungry and salivating just thinking about all that delicious food, my nephew focused on one item and one item only--the M&Ms. They are, by a long shot, his favorite candy and he wanted them. After I told him that he had to eat lunch before getting the candy, he went from person to person asking for his beloved M&Ms until someone was willing to hand them over. He had such a desire for this candy that he was willing to forego all the delicious and satisfying food before him so he could fill his mouth with chocolate and sugar that would only leave him hungry and unsatisfied in the long term.
Afterwards I could not help but think about what had transpired and God continued to open my eyes to the spiritual illustration of what had occurred. When I began to meditate on God's Word, I made the connection that in the same way my nephew wanted candy instead of the feast of food, believers sacrifice God's plan for instant satisfaction. Sometimes God's plan includes sweet times and easy times (we will call these the dessert times) where life is good and following God's plan is easy. Other times God's plan includes the meat and protein times where the plan is good but it takes a little more work to process; there is a little more work that needs to be done in order to swallow God's desires but we are not complaining because the meat is good. There are, however, times where God's plan includes vegetables, but we are not talking the good vegetables that you want to scarf down; these are the vegetables that are nutritious but not tasty (in my appetite, this would be the Brussels sprout times—I do not like them.). These are the times in God's plan when He is not giving you what you want; He is giving you what you need so that you can be filled with nutrition and substance that will make you and shape you into the person He desires you to be for His glory. In conjunction with this buffet of God, there are also the warring desires to run after that which is self-serving and filled with instant satisfaction—these are the M&M times. While on the surface they taste good and fill you for a short time, they ultimately leave you unfulfilled and over time leave you with poor nutritional health because they have no beneficial value. What is better, to accept the plan that God has put before you even with its times of nutritional value coupled with horrible taste that ultimately lead you to becoming the person God's called you to be, or to accept the plan that tastes good now while leaving you worse off in the end?
In Psalm 37 we get a glimpse of the difference between those who pursue God's plan as opposed to those who choose their own path of evil. In Psalm 37:1-2, the Psalmist tells the reader not to worry about, or desire to be like, those who do wrong because they will soon die. Rather, the Psalmist encourages the reader to trust in the ways of the Lord because he will "make your righteousness shine like the dawn and the justice of your cause like the noonday sun" (Psalm 37:6). Thus, we have the difference between the buffet of God and the desires for candy. To pursue the way of God, even when it tastes bad, is to be exalted by God in His timing, but to pursue your desires is to ultimately pursue your end.
James Christopher Powell has served as assistant minister in Northwest Florida for ten years.
He studies at The Baptist College of Florida where he is working on a Master's degree in Christians Studies.
He married his wife Jennifer in March 2014.