Haven’t We Been Here Before?
Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd? Matthew 15:33
One of the most maddening things about addiction is that the addict returns repeatedly to behavior he knows to be destructive. This is the definition of addiction – to repeatedly engage in an act despite knowing the miserable consequences.
I can vividly remember going through outpatient treatment the first time, looking down at those who were on their third bout of treatment. Three-time losers, I called them in my head. I’ll never be like that. Sure, I made some mistakes, but I’ve learned my lesson.
Then, a few short years later, I was on my third treatment – inpatient this time – humiliated, as I realized that I was now the three-time loser. I had not, in fact, learned my lesson. I’d chosen not to learn it as I refused to change anything, participate in relapse prevention, or go to meetings. Despite being shown the way, I rejected growth and I failed to find recovery.
I didn’t invent this kind of stubbornness though. Jesus’ disciples too, refused to learn. In today’s passage, they were again faced with feeding a multitude. Though Christ had just recently and miraculously fed 5,000, the disciples somehow forgot. They complained to Christ, Where will we possibly get that much food? We’ve only got a few loaves and some fish. I can see Jesus looking at the ground, sighing, while squeezing the bridge of his nose. Haven’t we been here before?
The narrative doesn’t say that Jesus chastised them though. He simply gave thanks and miraculously fed the multitude . . . again. The disciples still didn’t learn, as a few verses later (Matthew 16:5-12) they once again grumbled about not having enough bread. Sigh, when will you learn?
This is our nature. We are slow. Most of us have some painful lesson that we must learn (or fail to learn) over and over. Thankfully, God is a gracious, loving, and forgiving teacher. For our own sake though, we must learn from our mistakes. Foolishness repeats the same blunders, causing ongoing painful consequences. Wisdom learns, grows, and does what it takes to abandon the old life to follow the new one. If we want to stop causing our own misery, and if we want to know faith and life, we must learn to follow God’s way instead of our own.