When The Task Becomes Complicated
If you have been around young children, you have probably read a particular book.
Children love the story.
They find it very funny.
Adults find the story hits a little too close to home.
The book, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, is written by Laura Numeroff.
She has written other books which delight children as well.
If You Give A Pig A Pancake and If You Give A Moose a Muffin are some other titles.
Children delight in the circular story that ends where it began.
If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk.
And so it begins.
When you give him the milk, he’ll probably ask you for a straw.
One thing leads to another as the very simple act gets complicated.
The book reminds me of a Bill Keene Family Circus cartoon.
The mother asks Billy to run something to the mailbox.
What should be a direct path from the kitchen to the front door becomes a maze of footprints.
Little Billy gets distracted and stops along the way; he takes the scenic route.
Children may laugh at the story of the mouse and the cookie, but adults understand it all to well.
When we set out to do a very simple task, inevitably the task gets complicated.
What should be an easy job to complete, becomes involved often through no fault of our own.
My aunt used to say, It snowballed.
I never understood that expression as a young girl.
However, when I got older, I understood it all too well.
You can never do just one thing.
One thing leads to another until the simple job at hand seems to become a multi-step mess.
My husband came home from work and told me that he was going to cut the grass.
He knew that dinner was almost ready, so he decided to wait until after we ate.
I heard him start the tractor.
I heard the tractor as he drove it across the front lawn.
Then, the tractor stopped.
It stopped for quite a while.
I was cleaning up the kitchen.
I decided to open the door and make sure he was okay.
He was near the old farm wall.
The tractor was parked next to him.
He had a saw in his hand.
He was cutting up a large tree branch that had fallen.
He could not mow around the tree branch.
It was in his way.
He had to stop what he was doing to go to the garage to get the saw.
He had to saw the large tree branch into pieces and throw them into the woods.
The diversion was unexpected.
He had a job to do.
Instead of a straightforward task, he was forced to take a detour.
Like the Family Circus cartoon, my husband’s footsteps were all over the place.
I went food shopping.
My shopping cart was filled with my grocery bags.
I opened the back of my minivan.
I forgot the I had the stroller in the back from when my daughter and I went shopping.
It was our first outing with my sweet granddaughter.
I had forgotten to remove the stroller.
The car seat was on one side; I had to put the stroller on the other side.
My groceries sat in the cart in the parking lot until I maneuvered everything into place.
Instead of a linear task, it resembled Billy’s footsteps when he took out the mail for his mom.
In the scheme of things, it is not a big deal.
However, it is annoying when it happens.
This happens to people when they are doing home repairs.
We painted the bedroom, now the rugs need to be replaced.
If we replace the rugs, we might as well get a new comforter for the bed.
If we get a new comforter for the bed, we will need to replace the sheets.
And so it goes.
Laura Numeroff hit a nerve.
She was able to write an adorable children’s story that depicted the human condition.
We see ourselves in the mouse, and the moose, and the pig.
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them. (Ecclesiastes 1:1-11)
We see the endless steps we have to take when all we want to do is go from here to there.
We see the detours and roadblocks that make our easy task more difficult.
We have to do more than we counted on doing.
We see the result of the Fall.
This is not the way God created the world.
God created and declared everything, good.
Sin entered the world and everything changed.
Work, instituted by God, now became toil.
Like Numeroff’s story, that linear story became a circular one.
The way the story began is the way it ends after all the detours and roadblocks.
The mouse finally gets the glass of milk he asked for in the beginning.
It is the same for us.
God created man in His image; male and female He created them.
We were made to be with Him.
Sin separated us from God.
Our footprints look like Billy’s as we try to find our way back to the beginning.
In the beginning, God…
That is where the Story began.
That is where the Story ends.
God made a Way for us in His Son, Jesus.
As we follow Christ, our footsteps lead back to God our Father.
The crooked path we take when we walk on our own is a distant memory.
We walk with purpose.
We follow Him Home.