There’s a wonderful article in a recent issue of Ministry Matters by Joseph Yoo discussing a midrash about two Israelite men, Reuven and Shimon who were present when God, through Moses, parted the Red Sea.
As the Israelites were walking across the Red Sea, Reuven and Shimon noticed that, though it was now safe to walk on the bottom of the sea, it was not completely dry and very muddy. Mud was getting stuck between the sandals and toes of Reuven and he couldn’t handle it.
“Ugh,” he muttered. “What in the world is this muck?”
Shimon agreed. “There’s mud everywhere!”
“Ugh. This is just like the slime pits of Egypt!”
“What’s the difference? Mud here. Mud in Egypt. It’s all the same, no?”
The two grumbled and mumbled all the way across. And because they never once took the chance to look up, they never understood why on the distant shore everyone was singing songs of praise.
For Reuven and Shimon, the parting of the Red Sea never happened. They were far more concerned with complaining.
And the truth is, we will find what we are looking for.
I’m always taken aback by my propensity to be negative. I’m quicker to point out what was wrong with a church or their worship service; quicker to criticize what the pastor said or didn’t say; eager to share what I didn’t like.
And I always find what I’m looking for. I’m ashamed to admit how much I relate to Reuven and Shimon and wonder how many miracles I’ve missed out on because I chose to look for things I wanted to complain about.
There’s a false notion that assumes that those who can find problems are geniuses. The truth is, it doesn’t take much intelligence to point out problems. Anyone can tell you what’s not working. The true genius comes in finding solutions for the problems pointed out. But folks like me find it easier to sit back and be armchair quarterbacks pointing out all the things that displease us and hoping that someone else will address those areas.
I recently came across Paul’s words to the Philippians, which resonated louder than before. “From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8)
You will find what you are looking for.
If you seek to find negativity, you will surely find it.
If you seek to find mistakes, you will definitely find them.
If you focus on blemishes, you’ll only find blemishes.
But what if we took Paul’s words to heart and focused our “thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise”?
What would we see?
What would we find?
How different would we see and perceive the world?
How many more miracles would we be witnesses to?
We’d be more aware of the beauty than the brokenness in this world and in people.
Let’s avoid living our lives like Reuven and Shimon, unaware of the miracles because we choose to focus on negativity, complaints, and shortcomings. Instead, let us choose to put into practice the words of Paul.