Choosing the right cereal

By Pastor Ryan Olson
Little Falls Alliance Church

I watched him stand there and face his dilemma. Moments before, he had opened the cupboard door and exclaimed in astonished excitement, “Wow!” Three heartbeats later his face went from elation to concern, to disappointment. He had before him four of his favorite cereals and he could pick any one he chose. The problem was, he wanted all four, and at most he could only enjoy two.

We have a rule in the Olson home of just two bowls of cereal per morning, lest our kids get so strung out on sugar they power the city of Little Falls with their energy, if only we could get them harnessed to a generator, (hey, keep that in mind Minnesota Power, there might be something there). I must commend him on his problem-solving skills as he deferred to the childhood go to; eeny, meeny, miny, mo.

It was really fascinating to watch, somewhat because he had no idea I was observing, and also because of the nature of his struggle. The first to be eliminated was his beloved Honey Bunches of Oats. Just to put things into perspective, if Isaac were given the option of what food he would like to have, if he had only one meal left in his life, it would likely be either corn dogs or Honey Bunches of Oats, so kudos to Post Cereals.

As that box was eliminated he let out this guttural moan, which is followed by a long pause, as he contemplates the consequences of the rules that he expected to follow. You can just feel his disappointment. The look in his eyes was saying, “Oh no — not that one.”

He pressed on, and continued to follow the expected rules and eliminated the next option, and then the third, and finally he was left with the high octane, sugar-boosting, white rabbit screaming, why is my child hanging from the chandelier with a shaved puppy tied to the bumper of the truck, cereal — Trix. Nothing more was said, he took it, poured it and ate it. I mentioned to my wife, Sarah, later that it seemed obvious that he did not get the one that he really wanted; rather he settled for something, that though he was fond of, it would not have been his natural choice.

I contemplated this for some time, wondering what it was that caused him to feel so obligated to follow those silly expected rules of decision. I certainly came to no real conclusions about why he did what he did, and why he felt locked into this particular process. It was several days later that I was struck with a thought about how in my own faith journey I often find myself following expectations or doing things, which perhaps I am doing only because I feel obligated to do so, most often because I have placed them upon myself.

I think of the boy David, before he became king of Israel, he faced a giant in his life named Goliath. At that time, his role would have been clear. His job was only to provide rations and provisions for his fighting brothers, yet, as we see the story develop, it is obvious that the Lord had something else in mind entirely. 1 Samuel 17 records how David insists on fighting Goliath himself, and though he is discouraged by those around him, including his eldest brother Eliab and his king, Saul, he presses on.

I don’t know exactly how David’s life would be different if he had fallen prey to only follow the obligations set before him by Eliab and Saul. I don’t know how the history of Israel would have been different. I do believe that if David had settled for doing the things that others saw as his role, his life and the history of Israel would have looked drastically different. David could easily have justified a reason to not meet Goliath in battle. He could have said, “I am too young,” or “That is not ‘my’ job.” David was able to see things beyond himself.

I find myself challenged to live my life according to what the Lord lays out before me, and to press on toward his will for my life. It is often easy for me to allow myself to cave to the pressures to do things, even good things, that as I am sure many of you can relate to as well. I am convinced that many times the Lord may be calling me to act differently.

In David’s example, what he was doing was good and valuable, and yet God has something greater in mind. Let’s not miss the greater things that God may have set out before us because we are too focused on doing the things that perhaps people have laid out for us.