It’s been an intense morning. Lucas is home sick with terrible spring allergies. I had to call the doctor’s office to have them resend Emma’s school form granting her permission to run track this spring, and I’m editing a rather edgy piece that’s coming out tomorrow morning about the Billy Graham rule.
All that to say, it’s been hectic.
Several weeks ago in my Revised Lectionary readings, we hit a few days that dealt with provision. In particular the manna that came down from heaven. It’s the story of how the Israelites get set free from horrible slavery in Egypt and then end up in the wilderness and run out of food. They get pissed because they’ve just escaped a very bad king, walked across the Red Sea on dry land, are scared of freedom and what it is all going to mean for them, and then wind up in the wilderness without food or water.
God, of course, doesn’t see these things quite the same way the people do. God has just shown off his best stuff, opening up the big river and all, and doesn’t understand why the people don’t trust him to take care of them.
In the end, the Israelites are instructed to get up every day and collect just enough manna (a honey, bread like food) for the day. Not more, not less. They are given what they need for one entire day.
They are not given what they need for an entire year, or even a month, or even a week. Just for today.
I hate that.
It would be a lot easier if I knew exactly what was coming around the corner and could prepare for it. If a storm is coming, I can stock up on food. If the kids are going to be sick, I can organize to get some extra sleep. If a publisher or magazine is going to reject a piece I’ve written, and I know they are going to reject it, I wouldn’t bother sending it to them. I could avoid rejection, hurt, even lack of sleep. Pretty much all things that entail risk, pain, or inconvenience.
But that’s not how God sets things up for the Israelites. God sets things up as they are making their way out of slavery, with a new standard. God will provide, but it’s right in the middle of daily life lived in dependence upon God, not a life where we demand things of God.
It reminds me of the Lord’s Prayer. Give us today, our daily bread. Jesus got the memo. God takes care of me today, for today.
For people who have gone through life with things like poverty, illness, harm, hardship, rejection … the basic stuff of being human, this can be a difficult pill to swallow when it comes to faith. Why doesn’t God just fix things in advance? Why doesn’t God wave a magic wand and give me some damn security?
Even though there are lots of books that answer this question, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s just not really part of the package of authentic faith. That’s about as good as I’ve got.
Being a practicing Christian means learning to walk with God through the real life things of our day. It means getting out of our heads, and talking to God about plain old ordinary stuff. Like, I need money to pay for the high electricity bill this month. (This is not a joke. My electric bills have been so high I’ve cried.) So we pray, God please help.
Or God please provide so I can afford to send my kids to camp this summer.
Or please stretch my money this month. Every month.
It also means that we get to talk to God about what our hearts need. Maybe you have a good financial situation and so you’re not worried about money, but you’re in AA and you’re worried about making sure you can maintain your sobriety and need God to help you one day at a time.
Or maybe you’re fighting cancer and you need God to give you strength and to breathe hope into your blood stream.
Or you’re exhausted with your commute and for right now, this is the job you have, and so you need stamina.
Or you’re lonely as all get out and need a friend. So you ask God for a friend, today. Once, when I was living in Buenos Aires, so lonely I could hardly breathe, I asked God for a friend. That day. I didn’t want a friend the next day. I needed a friend right then. I went to a church miles and miles away from my apartment and these two girls just my age were sitting behind me. I introduced myself, hoping to meet my new best friend, and it turns out they lived right next to me. Those girls became my companions. One of the girls even gave me my first bikini wax. (How’s that for bosom friends? Even Anne Shirley would be impressed with that level of intimacy.)
Or maybe you’re just plain tired or have bad allergies or you are in a mess at work and need wisdom.
Maybe you need to write an important email and set some seriously difficult boundaries and you need courage and a strategy.
Whatever it is, the lesson of the manna in the wilderness, of the give-us-today, our-daily-bread is one of the richest lessons in our faith. God will help you today. God is not far off. God is not distant. God is present and able to be you with the small ordinary needs of your day.
Sometimes God comes through in really creative and extraordinary ways. Sometimes it’s downright amazing. And sometimes it’s very ordinary. We get to our bed in the evening and look back on our day and can see there was a gentle grace that made it all more tender and beautiful. That is God with you.
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