When the Manna Ceases to Be

MannaScripture Passage (Joshua 5: 9-12)

9The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day. 10While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. 11On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

 

It was a glorious morning when the manna first showed up, fields upon fields of what seemed to be never-ending sustenance in the midst of deep hunger and despair. They ate their fill and it went away only to show up yet again the next day. It was what they needed at the time. It was God’s mercy and God’s grace and God’s fill raining down upon them. They had come out of Egypt downtrodden and emotionally beaten. They were not who they had been or who they were supposed to be. They couldn’t provide for themselves and the anger and the frustration and the disgrace became a part of their lives. They seemed to be in some sort of never-ending spiral of despair upon despair. And then, one day, they awoke to manna, gleaming pools of white that beckoned them to eat their fill, to feel better. It was comfort food at is finest.

 

And then one day, they ate unleavened bread and parched grain. It was food that they had grown and harvested, food that they had been able to produce themselves. It was wonderful, wonderful to eat of the harvest that they had a hand in bringing to be. It felt good to feel like they were getting back on their feet again. And then they realized that the manna has ceased to be. It no longer came unbidden in the morning. It no longer just appeared out of the clouds. It no longer came and what was interesting was that they really hadn’t realized it.

 

The manna was never meant to be permanent. It was never intended to be the thing that would sustain them forever. You can call it a stop-gap of sorts. But it’s probably better depicted as God’s way of helping us stand. We all have times of despair, times when the manna is the only thing we have to sustain us. But if we spent the rest of our lives just eating manna every morning, what would life really hold? We couldn’t leave the place and travel to new worlds. We have to be there in the morning when the fields burst into white. We couldn’t just relax and maybe even sleep in. After all, the manna was only there for a couple of hours. But, more importantly, we couldn’t grow. We couldn’t become those who God intended us to be—the planters, the harvesters, the helpers, those that hope for something more, that understand that God promises something more. So God gently nudges us away from this sort of dependence. (God did that before when we first began…I mean, does anyone even remember where that little Garden is anymore?) Maybe God’s intention is not that we be dependent upon God but that we choose to depend upon God. Those are different.

 

So in this Lenten season, we remember the manna. We remember the way that God sustained us, holding us, helping us stand. We remember and then begin to walk. And what we learn is that God is not trying to limit our world or constrict our view. God is there when we need help standing. And then when we begin to walk, when we finally begin to hope, when we begin to become more of who God intends us to be, God walks with us as we plant and harvest and become a part of growing God’s Kingdom. And if we fall again, God will pick us up and show us fields of manna—if only for a time. We can depend on that.

 

Let yourself get shaken up. What are you willing to give up to ensure your own unfolding, and the unfolding of what is holy in your life? Where you stumble, here is your treasure. (Joseph Campbell)

 

Thank you for sharing your Lenten journey with me!

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli

In the Thirst

Dry Parched GroundScripture Passage (Isaiah 55: 1-3)

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

 

Thirst, real thirst, probably eludes most of us who are reading this. We have water. We just turn on the tap and, usually, it runs freely. Many of us don’t think it’s good enough water so we spend money buying high-priced spring waters (which may be from a tap anyway!) But when one is really, really thirsty, thirsty to the point of feeling dry and parched, water is the most incredible thing in the world. So, here, we read of an invitation to all those who thirst. That really sort of sounds like thirsting is a good thing. So those of us with bottled water and instant food, those of us who satisfy our longing by buying more stuff or building bigger things or wrapping ourselves in the bounds of what we do, probably struggle with the whole idea of thirsting.

 

We live in a world that dangles satisfaction and completion in front of us. We live in a world that looks for results. We live in a world that looks for solutions to things that we do not understand, to things that are difficult. And yet, nowhere in the Scriptures does God protect us from the difficulties of life by telling us to run and hide, to avoid pain, to avoid suffering, to avoid darkness or wilderness or unknowing. After all, thirsting for something more means that we are alive. Physical thirst means that we are still living and breathing and our bodies are craving what they need. And spiritual thirst is the same. We are still alive. There is still something more. And in the deepest part of our being, we know that.

 

There are those that thirst for wealth, those that thirst for stature or position. There are those that thirst for pleasure or happiness. And there are those that thirst for things to be comfortable, to be the way they want it to be, perhaps to be the way it’s “always been”. But, for most people, attaining those things really doesn’t satisfy them at all. It leaves a veritable dryness in life. Perhaps the point is that life is not in the quenching but in the thirst. Alexander Stuart Baillie once wrote that “one needs to keep on thirsting because life grows and enlarges. It has no end; it goes on and on; it becomes more beautiful. When one has done [his or her] best there is, [one] finds, still more to learn and so much to do. [One] cannot be satisfied until one attains unto the stature of Jesus, unto a perfect [human], and ever thirsts for God.” I thirst. Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. And life began.

 

 

All your love, your stretching out, your hope, your thirst, God is creating in you so that God may fill you…God is on the inside of the longing. (Maria Boulding)

 

Thank you for sharing your Lenten journey with me!

 

I know I’ve tended to be a little irregular with the postings this season. I’m sorry about that. Life continues to get in the way. Maybe it’s part of that thirsting. I will try to keep the waters flowing.

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli