I find myself on a journey in the desert. A dry season, long and endless, prone to complaints, easy to get lost. With interest anew, I've begun to look into the book of Exodus, the story of when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and through the desert. A dry season. Long and endless. They were prone to complaints - loud ones. And it was easy for them to get lost.
They were hungry, angry with God, and looking for answers. Not the least of their concerns was something to eat. Please. Food.
Moses, an intercessor on behalf of the Israelites, presented their complaints to God. I sort of love how he says it... "They're complaining to me, God, but really they're grumbling against you. Could you show me what's next, perhaps show me how to encourage them?"
And God does.
"The Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day."
And the next day, after the morning dew was gone, there appeared thin flakes like frost on the ground. (I like to picture the ground covered with a fine layer of instant mashed potatoes.) :)
"And when the Israelites saw it, they said, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. And yet they baked what they wanted to bake; they boiled what they wanted to boil. It was just enough for that day, and anything they tried to save for the next day became spoiled over night."
Maggots. Smelly garbage. No saving this stuff, Israelites. Listen up. You have to start new. Every day.
Each morning, everyone gathered what they needed, and each afternoon, as the sun grew hot, it melted away. They had just enough for today, and God sustained them, one day at a time.
I have thought much about this. About the sustenance for just one day, how it could not last a second day. I have thought of this foreign stuff they had never known before, this something that satisfied their stomachs - and thereby their spirits.
Nancy Guthrie has written about this in The One Year Book of Hope, in which she is escorting me on a year's journey derived from her heart's path after the deaths of two of her children.
"I'll never forget standing in my kitchen with my sister-in-law, Caroline, after Hope's memorial service. "How do you do this?" I asked her, wondering how I would get through that day and keep facing the days to come. Caroline knew what it was like to bury someone she loved. Before my brother came into her life, she had dealt with the devastating loss of her first husband when he was killed in a car accident two weeks after they got married. Her answer to my desperate question was simple: 'Manna.'
She explained that just as the children of Israel were dependent on God to provide manna to sustain them every day while they wandered in the wilderness, I had to depend on God to give me the manna I needed every day to sustain me as I grieved my loss."
Complementing Guthrie's writing, and yet with a grief-healed perspective all her own, I find Ann Voskamp's words in her book, One Thousand Gifts.
"When we find ourselves groping along, famished for more, we can choose. When we are despairing, we can choose to live as Israelites gathering manna. For forty long years, God's people daily eat manna - a substance whose name literally means, 'What is it?' Hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling. They fill on that which has no meaning. More than 14,600 days they take their daily nourishment from that which they don't comprehend. They find soul-filling in the inexplicable.
They eat the mystery.
They eat the mystery.
And the mystery, which made no sense, is 'like wafers of honey' on the lips."
On my journey through this desert, he is feeding me each day. With just enough for that day. The strength I received this morning will not last through tomorrow; it may inform my tomorrow, but it will not carry me through. And while it makes little sense to me, while there is much that I do not comprehend, still I can feast on that which is baffling.
Somehow, this daily gift - that I do not understand, that I cannot name - is filling my soul. Somehow.
This is manna from heaven.