Fish Sticks, Tater Tots and Habakkuk

There is a good way to make people think that you are really spiritual.  Tell them that you were poor growing up.

Here’s how it works.

Person 1: “Remember those G.I. Joe lunch boxes we used to have back in grade school?”

Person 2: “Yeah, they were awesome.  Mine had Snake Eyes on it.”

You: “I never had a lunch box because I was on the reduced lunch program.  Oh, and I had to hitch a ride from a guy on a mule just to get to school.  We were poor, you know.”

Jackkpot!  End of conversation.

I didn’t grow up poor.  But things were tight.  That’s usually how it is in a single-parent home.  It was common for me to overhear my mom crying while talking to some bill collector on the phone.  Also, we ate fish sticks and tater tots for dinner a lot, if that tells you anything.

Now that I’m a husband and father who is obscenely rich, at least according to President Obama’s pledge to only raise taxes on the wealthy, I often wonder how my mom did it.  How did she manage to raise two kids and pay for all of the things that come with raising two kids?  And how is it that virtually all of my childhood memories involve laughter?  Why did our financial instability not become an emotional drain on our family?

Habakkuk has the answer.

He was a prophet during the time that the nation of Israel was divided.  One half of the nation had been enduring oppression at the hands of Assyria while the other half was about to get bullied by Babylon.  As you can imagine, this led to a lot of difficulties for God’s people.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
Habakkuk 3:17 (ESV)

In Habakkuk’s time, barren fig trees and empty fruit vines meant economic catastrophe.  But it was a catastrophe that Habakkuk was ready to face.  How?

yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.
Habakkuk 3:18-19 (ESV)

Habakkuk knew the difference between the temporary and the eternal.  Olives, cattle and fruit were very important but they were only temporary.  Whether it’s 640 B.C. or 2013, worship of the temporary always ends badly.  This explains why people kill each other in the Wal-Mart parking lot on Thanksgiving night when they find out that there aren’t enough flat screens to go around.  Wouldn’t you kill somebody if you just found out that your god was sold out?

My mother, much like Habakkuk, kept an eternal perspective in our home.  She did this by teaching and living the eternal gospel of salvation by grace through faith.  And she did this by reminding us that our strength doesn’t come from a really awesome G.I. Joe lunch box but from the strength and might of the eternal and living God (Ephesians 6:10).

My kids don’t know what it’s like to live in a single-parent home, they’ve never had fish sticks and tater tots and they will never meet their grandmother here on earth.  But I hope that they learn her valuable lesson of knowing how to let go of the temporary while clinging to the Eternal.