Recently, I have been pondering the mystery of the manna. If you don’t know the story, it is in Exodus 16. The Israelites were wandering around in the desert thinking that Egypt was looking pretty good in comparison. They were remembering the good parts and forgetting the slavery part. You know…back in ‘the good old days.’ In the history of man have there ever been any stories of the bad old days? You see my point. I can relate to the Israelites in that my memory is selective. God hears their complaints and he answers them with quail and manna from heaven. They wake each day to the ground covered with heavenly bread and are instructed to take only what they need for the day, no more, no less. It is one of those miracle stories of the Bible that I have loved since childhood.
My favorite part is when they woke and said, “What is it?” I like to think about coming out of a tent to see something akin to bread covering the ground. I am pretty sure I would have said the same thing they did…What is it? Why is it here? Is it safe to eat? Is it poison? Where did it come from? Who put it here? Instead of jumping for joy they were suspicious, even though Moses had told them God was going to do a miracle. In their minds it did not register that God was doing more than sustaining them, which by the way, he had been doing all along. In this case, he was giving them not only what they needed, but also what they WANTED…meat and bread. Have you ever done that? Been suspicious when you got want you wanted? I have. I have a tendency to distrust things when they go well. There have been so many broken times, that when things go right I hold my breath. I wonder when the other shoe will drop and I wait for it, almost to the point I cannot just be in the moment. And that was the point of the manna I think. Live THIS day. The bread provided nourishment for one day at a time, and that was all.
So how do I live in the moment? How do I learn to relish each day and not borrow trouble from tomorrow? I do not want a maggot infested life where worries pile up and rot, decaying in the corners of my days. I do not want to live with the stench of my distrust of God…where my words saturate everything around me until I am noseblind to the reeking odor that emanates from my fears and complaints finding voice. No. It is not my desire to poison myself and everyone around me. The key of being in the moment is in the mystery of the manna.
I think we can take lessons of the literal story, and look at them with figurative eyes. WHAT IS IT that nourishes you? WHAT IS IT that feeds your spirit? WHAT IS IT that makes you passionate? WHAT IS IT that you could rise up every morning and take into yourself that would sustain you? WHAT IS IT that brings you energy and strength? Is it art? Or music? Or your work? Or your family? Or cooking? Or being with people? Or writing? Or working with your hands? Or instructing? Or serving? Or giving? Or building? Or helping people? Or making things? What is your manna from heaven…the way you have been given to live on THIS day? WHAT IS IT?
Focusing on the things that bring life into you…that you are gifted with is a way to fend off the putrefaction that comes when we gather the burdens of our times. Using your eyes to SEE the good, and your mouth to SPEAK it is the miracle of the manna, because ultimately the Bread of Life is the only one who can bring us life. He is the one who broke himself into pieces that are palatable. He is the one we digest, whose very body is life to our spirits. And even when we complain about the manna…because eventually we always do…he will continue to provide it for us as we live here in this desert.