Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Appreciating the manna days

Through a series of various events, our household budget has started to loosen up. Because I am the plan ahead type, I always have a strategy for how this extra money will be used.

This week I was excited because I didn't need to get a lot at the grocery store - I pretty much had everything on hand (aside from fresh fruits and veggies, and a few weekly staples) that I needed to make dinners for the week. I envisioned having over half of my grocery money left over, allowing us to put more money towards paying the plumbing bill. Or the dentist bill. Or renew our car registrations. Or buy a half gallon of gas, now that it's hit 3.95/gallon.

Why is it that these things all come at you at once? Sheesh!

Yesterday I went to Aldi's to finish up the grocery shopping. (By the way, I love Aldi's. I may have to devote a whole post to them sometime.) I ended up getting some extra items, and was shocked to discover that I had spent almost all of my grocery budget. How did that happen??

I was a little miffed. I was supposed to have a lot of extra money, and it seemed to vanish before my very eyes. Then I panicked a little. Not a full-blown panic because, thankfully, money isn't as tight for us right now as it has been in the past. I know that we will be ok.

But I did have a momentary freak out session because things weren't going like I had planned.

That's when God nudged me a little and reminded me that he has always provided for our needs. He also reminded me of several huge financial blessings he has given us this year.

I thought of the manna he gave the Israelites while they wandered in the desert. Every morning they woke up to manna (see Exodus 16 for the whole story) and they were instructed to only take as much as they needed for the day. Some people tried to take more, but when they woke up the next morning, the extra manna was rotten and had maggots.

God basically said, "Look - I brought you out of Egypt, out of slavery and oppression, I showed you my awesome power by bringing you through the Red Sea, I gave you this manna and told you that it will be available to you every day, and yet you doubt me so much that you try to hoard my provision?"

(FYI, in case you are thinking, "Wow - I wonder where that passage is," and you decided to try and find it in the Bible, it's a MAJOR paraphrase. It's part of what I would have said if I was God talking to the Israelites. But I'm not God, so this probably isn't quite accurate. In case you were wondering.)

God has always provided for me. As I pondered this, it struck me that I have never, not one time ever, had a day where I went hungry for lack of food. I have never wondered where my next meal would come from. I may have wondered where next week's, or next month's food would come from, but not one time have I ever opened the refrigerator or cupboard to find it empty.

I've also never been homeless. Or car-less. Sure, I've had my share of late payments, and my share of wondering how we would make our paychecks stretch for the month. But it's always worked out. God always gives us the manna we need, when we need it.

I find myself a little conflicted about our new financial position. We've paid off some things that, in the past, we wondered if we would ever see the light at the end of the tunnel. We're starting to build on our financial foundation in a way that we've never been able to in the past. In the not-too-distant future we will (hopefully) be faced with making choices about how to use our excess money wisely.

On one hand, I love this. We've worked hard to get to here.

On the other hand, I see how our financial situation at many times in the past has caused us to fall on our face before God in utter dependence of his provision. It allowed us to see him move in miraculous ways, providing financial blessings (both big and small) just when we needed them. Having only enough manna for the day made me continually turn to God with a heart that was thankful for that day's supply, and a heart that humbly asked for enough for the next day.

I wonder if having excess will cause me to become numb to the fact that I am dependent on God. I wonder if the ability to store up manna for tomorrow will send me down a path of thinking I am dependent on myself.

God eventually led the Israelites out of the manna phase, and allowed them settle in the land of milk and honey. He allowed them to prosper as a nation. I don't think he intends for any of us to always be on a manna diet, and I am certainly not saying that we shouldn't store away our surplus for the future. In fact, Proverbs 21:20 says, "In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has." But standing in this place where our financial "promised land" is actually visible on the horizon, where we have a surplus to store away, I find myself fearful of my human nature. I pray that the lessons learned in the desert will be remembered in the promised land.

If I was a character in the Old Testament, I suspect that this is where God would instruct me to stop and build an altar. A place to remember what he's done. A reminder for the future - something that says, "Hey, remember when we couldn't do this on our own? Remember how God did some miracles for us? Remember when we had to rely on the manna?"

In fact, God does this very thing when Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, which marked their entry into the Promised Land:

Joshua 4
1 When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, 2 "Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight."


And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21 He said to the Israelites, "In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, 'What do these stones mean?' 22 tell them, 'Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.' 23 For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea [b] when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God."
Writing this post and researching these passages from the Bible have convinced me - I need to build an altar. Not necessarily out of stones, but I at least want to find something to place in my home that will serve as a reminder.

In the meantime, I will appreciate the manna days that remain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sis! You're amazing and I think you need to write a devotional or something! Thanks for encouraging and challenging me with this post. Love ya!