But Rice & Beans Month is about much more than the food. And this is where it gets...interesting.
I would love to tell you that we gather as a family each night around the table or in the family room, reading our daily devotional from A Common Meal, praying for people around the world and making altruistic advances as we are overcome with gratitude for our blessings and the realization that so many needs are all around us.
But that would be a lie.
Our R&B devotional times are hit and miss...we can only pray that we "hit" the ones that God doesn't want us to miss.
Our tummies grumble throughout the day. Oh, we're not even close to starving, even though it sounds like it from the whining echoing through the house (or car). We've consciously tried to limit snacks, reminding the kids to "fill up" at meal time, and invariably the parental lecturing gene will kick in as we remind the kids that we enjoy 3 meals a day while others can't count on even 1 or 2 meals a day, let alone snacks. And the words bounce off their pouty lips and glazed eyes, seemingly unheeded as a child reiterates, "But I'm HUNGRY!"
Our lack of thankfulness is appalling, given that we come face to face DAILY with blatant reminders of the abundance, even excess, that we enjoy/take for granted in so many ways. And here my finger points at myself as much as or even more than at my offspring--instead of being grateful that my needs are constantly met, I focus on what petty little issue is bothering me at the moment. (In case you were wondering, it currently happens to be the 16 or so mosquito bites on my face and neck.)
And the ATTITUDES! Ouch. A few nights ago our family dinner time involved one of the children sulking upstairs while the parents angrily stabbed their bites of food, barely concentrating on what the other children were discussing around the table as we tried to calm down and figure out how to deal with said sulker. Thank the Lord for intervening--before we finished eating, a tearful apology was given and gratefully accepted, paving the way for some teaching moments.
Such moments come more frequently, I'm learning, when we are completely out of our comfort zone. Let's face it, being hungry often leads to being crabby. Even though we are conscious of the fact that food WILL be forthcoming, sibling arguments happen alarmingly close to the dinner hour. It has not been uncommon for me to hear yelling and doors slamming right when I'm trying to put a new recipe together for the evening meal. We've dealt with a level of disrespect and anger towards one another that is amazingly escalated--frankly, it's ugly. It grieves my heart, because not only do I deal with it in the children, but also within myself.
I'm reminded that we wrestle NOT against flesh and blood.
We may be feeling hungry physically; we may be tired of a more simple diet. We may be frustrated that friends around us are eating snacks and treats while we say, "No, thanks."
But that isn't the reason we struggle and strive against one another. At least, I have become convinced that it's not. While I can't prove this is the case, I am quite sure that our enemy is prowling around like a roaring lion, and we've inadvertently issued him a battle invitation:
Because we are deliberately choosing a period of denying self to follow Christ more closely.
Because we are doing something counter to what the world says is normal.
Because we have eternity in our hearts and desire to purge more of the temporal from our "must have" list.
Luke 4 says that Jesus was led into the wilderness, where for 40 days He was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing for those 40 days, and at the end of them, "He was hungry." (I'm guessing that is one of the biggest understatements in the Bible.)
Note that Satan didn't wait for those 40 days to conclude before he tempted Jesus...no, the temptations were going on the whole time. And I'm willing to bet that the hunger pangs didn't wait 40 days to kick in, either. I'm pretty sure Jesus felt those the whole time, too. But in a time of extreme vulnerability, Jesus never sinned. Never sulked. Never complained. Never lashed out.
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:15-16
My family and I are not starving in the wilderness, but we DO face temptation every day--as all people do, whether our bellies are full or not. During this particular season as we experience R&B month, we find ourselves more acutely aware of the spiritual struggle that is ever present. And while the teaching moments that "hit" may be less frequent than the ones that "miss," by God's mercy and grace, we ARE learning. We ARE growing. We ARE maturing.
Even while our stomachs are growling...no, especially while they're growling! :-)