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Sunday, February 05, 2012

What is It?

This morning my reading fell in the book of Exodus, following a historical/sequential read-through-the-Bible in one year plan.  Some background:  such dramatic stories, but we often forget the years of less glorious preparation God puts His chosen leaders through.  Joseph was a slave and a prisoner from age 17 to age 30, with no glimmer of assurance that he would ever see his family let alone freedom again.  Moses was a third-culture kid who straddled two ethnicities and then was self-exiled into a third, managing livestock in the wilderness for his father-in-law when God propelled him to leadership.  All through Genesis God upsets the normal order of the firstborn, raising up younger siblings to rule the older.  And takes those leaders through long years of wilderness, conflict, alienation.  Most of the time they had little to go on other than God's unlikely promise.  It was a conditioning by service that strengthened them for the moments of truth.

The same thing happens to the entire nation of fleeing slaves, after four centuries of oppression they go out from Egypt "with boldness".  Which lasts precisely three days.  At every obstacle (which are admittedly quite frightening obstacles, facing annihilation between an angry pursuing army and a seemingly impassible sea, facing starvation and thirst in a hostile trackless waste) they immediately panic, and blame Moses, questioning his leadership.  Why did you bring us here, you should have thought of this.  Or worse, you purposely put us in jeopardy.  Which had a slightly familiar ring to it as former remote-place leaders, when our team faced hard times.  Why didn't we prepare better, anticipate, prevent?  

And over and over Moses takes the issue straight to God, and over and over God patiently provides.  Which brings us to today's story.  

The people are hungry.  And God sends food, in the form of a seed-like dusting of flour that can be made into bread, with a flavor of honey.  When the people walk out the first morning and see this substance spread over the landscape, they say "What is it"?  Which sounds like "manna" in Hebrew I suppose, because that is how the food gets its name.  Manna is a skeptical question.  It was not immediately obvious to the wandering hungry Israelites that this was food.  It wasn't the answer to prayer that they expected.  Provision, obscured.  

I wonder how often I look at God's mercy and say, "What is it"?  How often I fail to recognize the good in what God sends?  

As we enter our second year at Kijabe there are still losses and questions that have not fully settled in my heart, and looking at this year with Caleb going one way and Luke another and balancing responsibilities, well, it looks about as appealing a gathering a seedy white ground-cover to cook with.  Today I helped a visiting family medicine resident resuscitate a tiny preemie, put in a UVC, intubated, made decisions, set up a ventilator.  I could not have done that a year ago.  Progress?  But then I returned in the evening to orient a visiting doctor with astute questions I couldn't answer, and happened upon the baby as he was deteriorating and failed to get the tube in again.  Sometimes I get tired of always feeling like I'm catching up, not quite where I should be.  Is this provision, this constant tension of more to know and do than I can manage?  We lost the baby's mother.  Is this provision, daily exposure to heartache?

For now Kijabe is my what-is-it.  To taste the honey-tinged wafers one has to go and gather.  This weekend we also spent a lot of time just being in community here.  And it was sweet.  Two couples whom we've met over the years, long-term Kijabe docs now departed to more frontier missions, were back to visit.  A medical student whom we've been working with, processing and hanging out.  Four other moms who help with class activities, baking about a thousand cupcakes and cookies for Valentine's sales, learning a little more about their lives as we poured batter and stacked cookies.  Two families who have been here more than twenty years accepting our invitation to pizza and telling us some of their story.  A friend we've made over the last year coming to us with a medical issue.  My partner dropping by with precious Starbucks coffee.  This is our community now, and I am growing in appreciation.  What at first seemed intimidating and difficult to penetrate is now beginning to look a lot like a gift.  I am thankful for these people, and the richness of our interdependence.  It doesn't look like our old team at all, so it was hard to recognize the manna in this place.  But it is here.

Jesus, of course, is the real manna.  The real provision.  And the real "what-is-it" as He consistently defies expectations.  He wasn't recognized as God's gift when He was alive, and many of us stumble over they way he diverges from what we hoped God would do.

In 2012 I know we will be sustained by the daily freshness of God's mercies, however challenging they are to recognize.  Praying we will all taste of the goodness.


Eileen Lass said...

Jennifer, have you read Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts? I loved her meditation on "manna as mystery" - a lot like your paradox.
Much love,

Christy said...

Thanks for sharing.

And though I don't know Eileen ^ I have read Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts and loved reading it. Very thought-provoking and challenging, in the same ways that your posts often are.

Anonymous said...

Your post was a gift to me beyond what words can express. Your words come at a specific time in my life when I am asking "What is it" God's peace be with you. Sandra

DrsMyhre said...

Eileen and Christy--I have heard people talk about Ann Voskamp but never read her books. But I suppose hearing that we saw the same thing in the passage is an encouragement. I am sure any insight I have has probably been thought of and written about a thousand time, but the Spirit makes it new to each person in her own situation. Thanks for reading. Jennifer

Anonymous said...

Dear Jennifer, Your meditation is just what I needed tonight. Thank you once again for being God's helping hands. After difficult months, it was a refreshment to be reminded that the mercy-gift doesn't always look like one. I am praying for blessings for you and your dear family and for your far-flung teams. Thank you for your blessing to me. Gratefully, Judy-no-longer-in-HMB

Lance Catedral said...

Praising God for your lives, such encouraging testimonies of His abundant mercies!