As a teenager, one of the rites of passage of living in northwest Oregon was picking strawberries. If the strawberry crop came to fruition early, the schools would be dismissed so students could pick in the fields.
My mother signed me up to pick berries one year. It would teach me discipline, perseverance, the value of money, and give me some money of my own. My friend George and I arrived at the bus stop just after dawn to be picked up by old man Lepschat in his smelly and rickety bus. We’d pick 7 or 8 hours and be paid 35 cents per flat; a flat is about 12 pints.
Who can resist a big, fat, juicy Oregon strawberry, especially when you’re on your hands and knees in an unlimited field of fruity sweetness? So that first day, I ate as many berries as I picked. I ate until my stomach wouldn’t hold even one more.
After a day of picking and eating strawberries in the hot sun, and a long bumpy ride home, George and I returned home. I stepped inside the house and violently shot semi-digested strawberries out of my mouth across the room. At the sight of my regurgitation, George “unloaded his groceries” too. Every single berry we’d eaten ended up on either the floor or the wall. I couldn’t eat another strawberry the rest of the season.
After being freed from slavery in Egypt, the Jews complained because they didn’t have meat for dinner. Yes, God gave them a daily abundance of manna from Heaven, but the Israelites wanted something different and better. They complained so loudly that God said, “Okay. If you don’t want the bread from Heaven, I’ll give you all the meat you can possibly eat.” God answered their prayer with a huge flock of quail.
You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you (Numbers 11:20).
It was a prayer better left un-offered!
God always answers the prayer of His child with a “yes,” a “no,” or a “wait.” Looking back I realize that sometimes God’s greatest gifts are the prayers answered with a “no.”