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.