I drank a stolen grape soda once. In a little screened-in porch off the side of an old country house, softly lit by incandescent light bulbs, a group of high school friends and friends of friends and I laughed and buzzed with conversation in the humid summer air. Our smiles, I remember our smiles, and the fizziness of that purple drink…I was surprised when the boy whose house we were visiting that night, the boy who was friends with my good friend, opened a clunky refrigerator kept on that wooden porch and pulled out a flat cardboard tray of aluminum cans filled with sugary drinks. I assumed his parents had purchased those cans of soft drinks for him to share with friends, to make their home more hospitable to teenagers.
Later, weeks later, perhaps, I heard that he had stolen those dozens of drinks from a grocery store. I had consumed something stolen, I remember thinking with confusion. I didn’t feel guilty, because I had not known that he’d stolen them and shared them around as if they were his to offer. But I felt that the drink had somehow been tainted because it was not meant for me, and yet I drank it anyway. I took something for myself that was not meant for me to have, even if I hadn’t known.
You know what else I’ve tried to take for myself that wasn’t mine to take? Control. The kind of control that makes me feel good, that makes me think I can force my day to go from point A to point B smoothly, evenly. A smooth and even-keel day which might look like this: Children who don’t struggle with reading and cry with frustration about the half a page in the workbook we’re trying to get through, who don’t argue about whose turn it is to bring the math folder to the table, who ALWAYS remember to put away everything–the book, the flip flops, the empty bowl of sour cream. It might also include no extra work: no broken jars or spilled smoothies on the living room rug.
Part of me yearns for the kind of “good” day that just makes me feel satisfied and peaceful and trouble-free. And I’ve seen myself at times when I can’t control this, how I get angry in response–mad at my boys or mad at God or mad because this is my life. Mad because I didn’t get my way, didn’t get that wish for an easy-flowing, sunshine-y kind of parenting, home-schooling day.
I read a book several years ago by Ruthie Delk called Craving Grace: Experience the Richness of the Gospel. In it, she wrote that, if we want to know where we harbor idolatry in our hearts, we should ask ourselves what makes us angry. So I did–What makes me angry? And that was it–not getting that “good” day, that smooth, successful day. I was trusting in THAT for a sense of peace that passed understanding, instead of in the peace giver Himself. I was trying to quench my soul-thirst at the empty well of hoped-for pleasant circumstances instead of drinking from the Spring of Living Water.
That living water is always there for the taking. It’s always meant for me, and it always satisfies my thirst.