We were touring a Florida botanical garden when we came upon a stand of bamboo. This particular variety was large apparently making it easy to carve on the pipe-sized stalks, because many people had done so. A sign that read, “PLEASE – NO CARVING ON THE BAMBOO,” had been placed next to the plants. It appeared, by the dating on some of the carvings, that a number of them had been done after the sign had been posted!
It reminded me of the “WET PAINT” signs that are an invitation to touch and test to see if the paint is still wet. Then there’s the child who, when told not to cross a certain line, gives an obstinate look at the adult lawgiver and proceeds to cross the line anyway. How about those words we really want to say to someone, but know we shouldn’t? They become almost impossible to keep to ourselves, even though we know we’ll later regret it, and so we find ourselves blurting them out. When it comes to speed limit laws, how many drivers consciously drive a specific number of miles per hour over the speed limit, whatever it is?
Laws are meant to keep us in line, but they often induce us to be lawbreakers. When something is forbidden we often find it to be all the more tempting. “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” are the tempting words of the seductress, named Folly, in Proverbs 9:17.
So, what do we do with all of this? First, we should be aware of the temptation of being attracted to that which is forbidden. It goes way back to the first man Adam and the first woman Eve who were told not to eat from a certain tree, but did so anyway.
Second, it’s good to remember that the satisfaction of acquiring something rarely lives up to the self-induced hype of wanting it. Desires fulfilled can often be disappointing.
Third, it can be helpful to focus on what is within reach, or is already ours, instead of being fixated on that which is out of reach, and may not be meant to be ours. Sure, it can be good to reach beyond our grasp, if we’re reaching in a right and good direction, but it’s often a reach to something not intended for us.
I recall a woman’s response in a counseling session with a minister. She had an “aha” moment of insight and with a tone of surprise in her voice exclaimed to her pastor counselor, “You mean I don’t have to do everything I want to do?”
We don’t have to carve on the bamboo! We don’t have to do everything we want to do!
“Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:15-17)