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Lenten Meditation: Manna from Heaven

Life is a wilderness. Day to day life can hold monotonous drudgery on a good day and as bad as horrifying crisis on others. Honestly if we allow ourselves to take some of our misgivings about our day to day trials to their logical conclusions, we would be able to paint a pretty bleak picture. I mean, seriously, the odds we face when dealing with the cold calculating world can lead our thoughts right into a hole that we could never dig out of emotionally. I have an analytical, logical mind. Being a computer scientist by training and a technical expert throughout my career, an analytical mind is a huge asset. Unfortunately, though, life’s bigger problems do not simplify into bits and bytes and logical proofs. Oh my gosh, life is a wilderness. Lucky for me, the Lord has not forgotten me.

And it has to do with ordinary things. Like in the morning, I ride the commuter bus to work. I love the bus, and I really don’t know why. It is convenient and saves me a lot of money, but that is not it really. When I ride the bus, I have a goofy, silly feeling. Just people standing in all sorts of weather waiting contentedly for the bus to arrive is one thing I am talking about. How nice that is to see people going about their business and making it through the world. When I hand my bus ticket to the driver to punch, after just stepping in out of the weather to the heated or air-conditioned cabin (depending on the season), there is an unexplained, low-level joy about the whole experience. People smile and say, “Hi” when you sit down next to them in the comfortable reclining seat. Some people have conversations with other riders they know, but it is just fine to stay quiet, and even take a nap. All is right about the world, and every day I am just a little sad when the bus arrives, and the trip is over. What is this phenomenon? Simply put, this is manna from heaven.

Exodus 16:4-5 - Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

As with me on my bus ride, manna from heaven for the Israelites was a tricky thing to manage.

Exodus 16:15-20- When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.

Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer[a] for each person you have in your tent.’”

The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.

Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”

However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

So, during my ride on the bus, it is the same. I need to follow the instructions. Only gather as much as I need and don’t try to “invest” in it so to speak. You can’t save it up for another day. Also, if this were so fulfilling to my life, I could ride the bus all day and never get off. That would solve all my problems, right? Wrong! That would indeed be violating the instructions and wouldn’t work. I truly need to keep to the task at hand of following the Lord's work in my life. The Lord said, only take what you need. The point for me is that manna is a sustaining force in my life. My analytical mind would crush me for sure if it wasn’t for the casual joy of living as a child of God. It is kind of like a pleasant background music, but it sustains me. It is so important. Being restricted from the manna by some cruel misunderstanding of the mind would be just like the Israelites dying of hunger in the desert. Sometimes we are stuck in a cruel trick like that. That is the definition of depression. Fortunately, the Lord cares for us and provides us manna each day if we are willing to find it from Him. The trials of life can be very tough: the death of a loved one, the break-up of a marriage, or prolonged illness. As the Lord feeds us with manna through these trials, we are sustained. It doesn’t necessarily solve our problems, but it sends us back into our trek across forbidding territory with the nourishment we need and a renewed vigor to the task. It is important to manage your partaking of the manna with respect and reverence, however. Do not question it or overly analyze it. Hold it as a sacred communion with God and accept it as what sustains you through otherwise hopeless odds. It will carry you over any wilderness.

Be sure to stay true to the task. Do not overindulge to the point where you lose your readiness to keep your best abilities focused on doing the Lord’s work. Always hold in faith that the Lords sustaining love will be there for you no matter what you need. As children of God sustained by His sweet manna, we wait eagerly for his next instruction even when we don’t know where the Lord will lead us.

Although beautiful, the manna is like a cloud that can seem solid but evaporates when we try to lean on it, sit on it, or stand on it. There is a true beauty in this. It shows how much the Lord cares for us and supports our mission in the world. He paves the way with manna from heaven.

Manna from heaven is plentiful and abundant. We could build a veritable celebration around it; and the Lord doesn’t mind one bit. He is happy for us. He keeps calling us, though, to do his work. We are gifted by Him with the option of how we manage our own time. We can spend time on the celebration of His sweet manna, but it is important not to degrade our own performance in accomplishing the work He has set out for us. I am a fan of the Washington Football Team and remember the words of John Riggins after scoring the go-ahead touchdown in Super Bowl XVII. He said, “Act like you have been there before.” He was dealing with a tidal wave of manna having just scored a touchdown of epic significance, and he trotted through the back of the end zone, flipping the ball to the referee with no fanfare. “Act like you’ve been there before,” and as an extension that might I add, “because the Lord’s work is not done.” Don’t get me wrong, celebrations can be wonderful and useful acts of joy to mold your direction in life, and they can actually be part of the Lord’s work for you. It is up to us. The Lord trusts us with such judgment and allows us to be creative. This is truly a sign of His love for us.

It is a simple thing indeed. The manna from heaven that the Lord provides us with each day to sustain our mission for Him in this world is truly an amazing and sweet gift. May we all rejoice in it and step forward in life for His glory pushed on by the nourishment we gain from it.



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