Faith is a wild ride. We want to have it all the time, but it’s hard to experience it fully unless our backs are against the wall in an obvious way – a way that others would say is a bit “crazy” or “difficult.” Those quoted words can often be interpreted relatively, but some situations are straight-up faith requiring.
I quit my job without having another one to replace the income I’d lose. I can’t say I had to have faith; we just did. Many people commented how much courage and faith that took & how they admired our risk-taking nature. But I realize in looking back: you can’t force yourself to have faith, you need to let God do it for you – because we don’t even have enough faith to have faith! I say this not to toot any horn, but to say what I’ve learned since that time. I had no idea how God would provide. I knew He would, but I didn’t know how. Part of that realization was recognizing that we might lose it all: house, stuff, cars, and more. But it’s interesting when you look back and see the Hand of God in how He did provide.
Mid-January 2012 I became desperate in seeking another job during the ensuing two-three months of unemployment and jumped at a somewhat menial part-time overnight position that was simultaneously cool, humbling, fun and yet lacked the provision necessary to meet ends “meat.” And as I look back, it’s one of my biggest takeaways from the last six months.
It’s what God does in our lives: He provides just enough to get by even though we often want “meat.” The first job I had provided a way for me to get out of my house and interact with Christ-loving people in an environment that was safe and expected little of me. It was emotional manna. It was “esteem” (though I hate to use that term) manna. It was encouraging, positive manna. It was what I needed. Was it bacon? Some other great meat (as if anything’s better than bacon)? No, but it was good and it was enough.
Miraculously, as mentioned in my absolute humility, God provided again with manna that was a bit different, but had the same sustenance needed. This time it was another job-fulfilling manna, provisional manna for our daily needs like a house, food, clothes and transportation. I celebrated how awesome the manna was and rejoiced in the continued falling of God’s goodness.
But recently I’ve found myself wanting meat. For the Israelites, quail did come at night (Ex. 16:12-13), but the focus in the text following this mention is all about the manna. The people’s focus was what was provided at the beginning of the day; much like how we look at provisions in the beginning of their impact and become somewhat worried or “concerned” without knowing their long-term impact (Tim Keller says worry is just concern gone bad).
I reflect on this concept of manna and its relation to faith. Even before this daily manna and “bacon” provision, the people of Israel hated the position they were in and wished they were back in Egypt, a place of depression, slavery and cruelty that no one would ever yearn to go back to (Ex. 16:2-3). Following this whining, God speaks to them and shows His glory to them through this amazing, what I can’t help to see as supernatural, cloud (Ex. 16:10).
The people had so much! They saw God’s hand and glory in their midst. We look at them and think, “How foolish; don’t they see how God is providing?!” And yet that’s what I’ve found myself saying recently, “where’s the meat?” I’ve begun to compare, that dangerous gateway to the greatest sin: pride. And in the process I’ve forgotten the faith I lived just weeks ago. I looked at dollars and compared them to others and even myself in the past. I look at future potential and don’t see anything more than “just enough.” I became just like Israel and it only took a few moments/thoughts to enable my brain to spin out of faith-control and into self-control.
Israel got sick of having “just enough.” They wanted more. And when they knew they would be provided for, they grasped at straws trying to ensure they’d have enough for tomorrow. I love this tiny phrase stuck in the middle of the prose: “They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over and whoever gathered little had no lack” (Ex.16:18). 401k’s, stocks, huge dividends and large salaries and commissions. And yet nothing left over. Gathered little, but no lack. 401k’s, stocks and the rest are not at all bad, but when we are grasping after those strips of bacon instead of trusting God with what manna He has provided we’re missing out.
The adventure of faith is a beautiful joy God allows us to experience. It’s certainly not easy, but when we allow Scripture to illuminate our own lives and realize our tendencies are not at all new, it’s actually a freeing relief. I mean Jesus said that His yoke was easy & yet when life is “tough,” it’s those times more than any that I think that yoke becomes “light.” Because of faith. Because of trust. And ultimately because of God’s grace, love and His own joy.
His joy isn’t just in giving these gifts. Sometimes it’s the hard process that is so rich and joyful. It’s certainly what I’ve experienced in my journey. Roller coaster at times, but such freeing perspective that could only come through God walking the process with me.
My daughter has had a loose tooth for weeks and today it was hanging on by a string. She knew it could come out and she wanted it to, but she was scared of the blood, the potential momentary pain, the fear of it “not working” for whatever reason, and as a result, it became a deal. A big deal. Trips back and forth to the bathroom, me standing outside the bathroom for her to try on her own, mom going inside the bathroom, sister taking turns and trying so hard to “make it happen.” After nearly an hour of this grueling torture over this tiny, baby cute little “toof,” daddy and daughter had an amazingly rich moment together that neither of us will forget for a long time.
Up until this point of the journey I promised I wouldn’t do anything she didn’t want me to. But I had such amazing joy as she gradually allowed me to touch the tooth, to put a tissue on it, and finally to yank. Her eyes of uncertain fear yet relief were confused, yet she beamed with pride and joy that she was now one-less-toothless. There was quite a bit of blood coming out as she continued to clot the cute gap on the bottom of her smile, but after a short time it stopped. And as time would have it not less than an hour later, I got this big ol’ hug and whisper from her, “Daddy, I’m glad you pulled my tooth out.”
How many times does God walk through the process of our “teeth getting pulled” only to have us whisper to him, “Thank you.” Sometimes the manna of God’s provision through experiences feels like getting a tooth pulled. It’s monotonous. It’s boring. It’s frustrating and annoying. It’s “not enough.” We want bacon. We want more without the pain or difficulty. And yet that’s part of the process God gives us. He invites us to allow Him to simply be on the outside of the bathroom door saying like I said to my daughter, “I’m proud of you no matter what, honey.” He allows us to let Him to touch the tooth. He allows us to choose whether we want Him to be a part of our journey.
He’s constantly providing manna. It’s not a question of whether He is; like the obviousness of the Israelites so is it often obvious when we look objectively at our life. It’s a question of us focusing on Him and not the bacon. It sure isn’t easy, but I trust it’s worth it. He may at times provide the bacon with bread, but no matter what we live for Him, not for the bread or bacon.