Tuesday, March 17, 2015

the Audacity

I read a verse in Numbers last week that stopped me in my tracks.

(It's not every day that you make a statement like that. Let's just pause for a minute and relish that statement ........................... and now back to our regularly-scheduled programming.)

In our Bible study, we've gotten to the point in Numbers where the Israelites are on the edge of the Promised Land. The older, grumbling, unbelieving generation has mostly died off. Miriam is dead. Aaron is dead. They've all died because of grumbling and disbelief, and yet God is still going to bring them in and give them the land that they have been promised.

They have also been sustained in the desert for nearly forty years. Every morning, they wake up and food is waiting for them. They don't do anything except go out and gather it, and day after day, it's always there. (Sounds a lot like grace, doesn't it?)

Forty years of provision, forty years of tangible, edible grace, and what do they have to say to God in response? This: "We loathe this worthless food."

We loathe this worthless food!

The audacity! The. Audacity. At least when I think these things, I'm savvy enough to couch these emotions in more subtle disgruntlement. "I'm just tired," "I'm weary," "It just seems like the onslaught never stops."

I had a period in the middle of last year when my daily, nay hourly, mantra was, "Eat the manna." I was surviving physically on very little food that remained in my belly on account of the embryonic stages of our sweet baby Elese (translation: severe morning sickness), and my constant propensity to vomiting was affecting every aspect of daily life. I was miserable and barely functional and I actually ordered a pregnancy devotional that I couldn't stomach (metaphorically, this time) because she was so ushy-gushy about what was going on in the reader's belly. Barely surviving doesn't often mix well with happy-clappy, even though the sober and mature mind should know better than to respond with snark.

Look, Israelites, we're not expecting you to think that manna is Five Star dining, but can't you muster a little gratitude? Or at least cloak your bitterness in the slightest?

Here's my response (marinated in time and Scripture) from last year (is it cheating to just quote myself at length?):

I was weary, both physically and emotionally.

I laid down on my bed at naptime and thanked God for the manna. This has been my mantra lately: "eat the manna." God will give you grace for the moment, no more, no less. I still need to grow so much in my joy, in my serving, in my dying to self; but I see it as a gift that I recognize the manna for what it is, which is God sustaining me from moment to moment.

This is, after all, what our Lord teaches us to ask him for: our daily bread. No more, no less.

But let's be honest again: the manna life is hard. It's scary and it feels so sparse and it takes so much faith and I found myself saying, "Oh Lord, I need to know you more in order to trust you in this. I know that as a man you were tempted in every way without sin, but I'm a woman, a wife and a mom, and these are my challenges. Do you really know what it's like? I know you are my great high priest who sympathizes with my weaknesses, but do you really know?"

And I was taken to the great interpreter of human emotion and experience, the psalter, where I'm reminded by these Holy Spirit-inspired writings that God does know.
Oh, Lord, take me back to you, back to your Word, over and over. Forgive me for the daily, the hourly, ways that I declare your grace as loathesome, worthless food. Give me today my daily bread and a heart to recognize the sweetness of grace when I taste it.

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