While visiting my mom in Belgium, we had the opportunity to visit a local street fair that was taking place along the dykes of Oostende. It seemed like all the town’s 100,000 inhabitants had joined us there, leaving us feeling a bit like sardines in a can, but with all the various goodies that I remembered from my childhood being sold in the various booths, it was worth it!
We were hungry. This was our first mistake. Never go to a street market that has all the things you remember from your childhood when you are hungry! My second mistake was that I wanted my kids to be able to try all of the delicatessens that I remembered loving. And so we stopped at a number of booths: warm Belgium waffles here, rice pie there, some lemonade from the booth across the way … Needless to say, we were pretty full by the time we saw the sign for “oliebollen”. Oliebollen, literally translated as “oil balls”, are a traditional Dutch delicacy consisting of fried dough topped with powdered sugar. It’s kind of like a round funnel cake or beaver’s tail, as we call them in Canada, and i t had been years since I had had one. Though my stomach was already complaining about the odd mixture of food it had received, I started towards the booth. After all, oliebollen are usually only available during special street fairs. This would likely be our only chance to try them!
“I am buying you guys some oliebollen!” I exclaimed.
If I had expected any opposition, I didn’t get any, but then I made my next mistake: instead of buying just one small bag for the 4 of us to shame, I insisted on buying one large bag (12 oliebollen) apiece!
I couldn’t wait to taste them, and as soon as I paid the vendor, I took a huge bite out of my first one. But instead of tasting exquisiteness, my mouth was filled with a greasy blob. Hum. This wasn’t how I remembered oliebollen tasting! I grimaced, but persisted in my endeavours to eat my entire bag. Perhaps the second one would taste better than the first!
After my sixth oliebol, it became clear that the grease was not settling well with the Belgian waffles, the lemonade, and the rice pie! And when I looked around, I realized that I wasn’t the only one fighting back the nauseous feelings! In the end, we discreetly tossed out the remainder of each of our bags.
Though the greasy little balls were no longer in our possession, the taste continued to linger in our mouths. We quickly located a booth selling cheese, just to have something to remove the taste!
Where had I gone wrong? Why had I insisted on a large bag apiece?
Just this: I remembered loving those little sugar-covered balls, and without even being aware of it, I was tempted by the thought of having an entire bag for myself. (Temperance is a virtue to be relished!) I eagerly entertained this temptation and gave in to intemperance.
Why would I do such a stupid thing? Reflecting over this, I discovered that I had been longing for elements of my past. I longed to return to the time when I used to roam the streets of my birthplace. My mother was well in those days, not ravaged by Alzheimer’s as she is today, and my family was still on speaking terms. How I wished to have those days back! Through these oliebollen, I had unconsciously sought to reconnect with my past, to relive some of the love my family used to share. In all reality however, eating oliebollen couldn’t make that possible. Instead, they only made me feel worse!
This reminds me of someone who faced a similar scenario. This person was not longing for oliebollen, however. He had not eaten in 40 days, and He was hungry! “He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.'” (Luke 4:2-3 NIV)
Notice when the tempter steps in: right at our most vulnerable moment! Notice also that he doesn’t tempt Jesus with a desire for the latest or with thoughts that no one should fast for such a long period of time. He goes right into Jesus’ deepest need of that moment: hunger!
The evil one never approaches us to deny our desires and drives. Instead he confirms them! He always approaches us with the same strategy: “You need this! You deserve it! Take action and satisfy your craving.” In other words, he tells us that we have a need that God cannot meet. He makes us understand that he can meet that need, and that we should listen to him!
Notice though that he never claims that he can meet our needs for the rest of our lives. He never promises that there won’t be putrid consequences if we give in! He never tells us that the consequences will cost us our lives as we know them, possibly even our marriages, our friends and our jobs! No, we won’t hear him giving even a tiny hint of any of these things.
One thing we can count on, however, is that he will instil in us a sense of urgency. It’s now or never! We’ll miss out if we don’t follow his lead! The pressure he can inflict on us can be so great that it will look as though we have no choice but to act upon our need.
Instead of responding to the destroyer of lives we should stop in our tracks, wait and think. What is he really after? What is the real need of our lives? We can be assured that the devil’s lowly suggestions are based, somehow, on our biggest need!
We must then take a moment to explore why we have this need. What actions have allowed this need to develop in our lives? Why would we trust the evil one, instead of the Lover of our souls? Can God truly not satisfy our most inner needs?
Then we must claim Jesus’ promise: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11:28-29 NIV)
Remember: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Cor 10:13 NIV)
Those oliebollen may sure looked good, but they couldn’t satisfy the biggest need of my life. Instead they made me sick! So is it with every temptation we encounter.
Would you like to try a yummy, greasy oliebol? How about a big bag! You really need them, you know! In fact, you deserve them! And they will solve your problems! Go ahead! Eat them-now!
(To access the entire “Fearless Victory!” devotional series, please click here.)