Be Careful What You Ask For

“Therefore the Lord will give you meat. You shall eat not one day only, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but for a whole month – until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you.” – Numbers 11:18-20 (NRSV)

As Grandma used to say, “Be careful what you pray for.”

In the wilderness the people, weary of manna from heaven, demand meat. God, who is just sick of all the whining, gets a little testy. “You want meat . . . okay. You’ll have it. You’ll have it until it’s coming out of your nostrils.”

So now we have this practice of “social distancing.” Keep your distance. I get it. Here in Seattle, it is working.

But it seems to me that we’ve been doing a whole lot of “social distancing” as Americans for quite some time now, if of a slightly different form. “Polarization,” breaking into camps and tribes. Projecting all our stuff onto those terrible others. “If only we could get rid of those people, we’d be fine.” Leaders sowing division and discord, pitting people against each other to hold onto power.

Could it be that God is giving us what we asked for – in spades? And could it also be that amid this crisis God is saying, “Wake up. Stop demonizing and dividing and ruling by setting people against each other. That way lies disaster. The only way forward, the only way out, is by coming together (even as we keep our literal distance) and re-discovering your common humanity. I know no nation or race, no gender or class.”

We’re in this together.

Help us to find one another, to cherish one another, to come together in our nation and throughout the world – now. Amen.

Tony RobinsonAbout the Author
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book, Useful Wisdom: Letter to Young (and Not So Young) Ministers will be published early next year by Wipf and Stock. You can read and sign up for his blog at