A word to the wise, when you do something in the throws of grief and time crunch, trust that it was enough for that moment and do not re-visit it.
In getting ready to write this post, I pulled up what I had written last week for our chapter on Pelicans in Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible by
Ah, the irony that this week’s bird, the quail, invites us to explore the dance between desire and slavery. If you’ve looked at the Bible study that Emily wrote (you can get it here), you know she started with a quote from Brene’ Brown: “The opposite of scarcity is not abundance; the opposite of scarcity is simply enough.”
As I typed my first line, what did I say? Trust that it was enough. The word “enough” triggered Emily’s reminder as the Israelites were coming out of slavery and a scarcity mindset. “God was teaching them that He was enough. He provided manna and quail. He didn’t give them storehouses. He gave them enough for one day. It was good, a delicacy even, but it was something to be given in small portions every day.”
They [the Israelites] are freed from slavery in Egypt, but they barely even celebrate before they begin to get hungry and thirsty. Bodily need is not something that is on the sidelines of these narratives. It is their throats and their stomachs that keep reminding them of their need for God in the desert. Their hunger is a risk they acquired when they were set free. Will God feed and care for them now? Was it God’s love that lead them to freedom and wandering, or is it that God hates them and brought them out to the desert to die? They struggle repeatedly with this insecurity. . . Should they really be following God in the desert, or are they fools to do so? It’s a legitimate question. I’ve asked it myself many occasions.
The line “their hunger is a risk they acquired when they were set free” has stuck with me since I read this chapter two days ago (on my uneventful flight back home, thank you God). I don’t believe God wants us to be afraid of our desires, but this line reminds me that he also doesn’t intend for us to be naive either.
As you think about your desires—for marriage, for your marriage, for children, for your children, for your finances, for a friendship, or to be seen differently within your organization, for language ability, or health, or meaningful work, or a visa—what is the risk that comes with it?
The risk is real but because the desire touches the deep, deep of who we are, we can downplay the importance to ourselves OR we can down play the risks involved. How often have you gotten what you thought you wanted, only to have a profound sense of disappointment? I get why the Israelites may have wondered if God was going to provide for them in the desert or if he set them up to die.
In the desert though, how easy it is to “remember wrong—and be deluded.” For years, my fellow teammates and co-workers and I would fantasize about how efficient and customer service oriented America—our home country—is. Some truth to this? Yes. Some major “remembering wrong” to this? Double yes.
Blue also cuts right to the heart with: “We sometimes believe the shortest path is the best one, but maybe (God knows) there is a need to wander. There is unmapped territory that needs to be explored—desires to be let go of, renounced, or transformed. God’s seduction is not a crass come-on, nor is it smooth. The path to intimacy may be long and complicated.”
Where are you wandering these days? How might God be transforming you in the wandering? Note, I didn’t ask if you like wandering, chances are you don’t. Several years ago my sister and I were hiking with her four daughters. We were familiar with the trail, but not overly so. When Elizabeth and I should have gone left (with, it turns out we learned later, the majority of the people we didn’t see), we went right. It was clear we were on a path, but not the path. The girls, and one in particular who is rather concerned with being lost, kept asking, “Are we on the right trail? Are we lost??? Would you tell us if we were?!?”
Elizabeth and I knew the general direction of where we had come from and were not worried, so we kept emphatically saying, “We are not lost! We know where we are, but maybe not exactly where we are. We are fine.” Want to know how to take the fun out of hiking? Be asked repeatedly if you are lost. We are not lost. We are wandering. Are you really going to miss the lovely scenery and company and day because we are not exactly where we thought we were?
Turns out, yes, yes, the girls were willing to miss the scenery, company, and day because wandering in the mountains is riskier than hiking on a path. Two years have passed and if there is even a hint of wandering, they turn to us with wide eyes and ask, “Are we lost again?” and we all know exactly which time “again” refers to.
Where might God have you wandering these days? How well do you do with wandering?
I love how Blue ends this chapter, “I don’t think the story of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, learning to know God—is merely an item of biblical history. These are stories that help us understand what our lives are like with God. We still wander, we doubt, we wonder if it has been foolish to follow God, because we often find ourselves in the desert. The quail in the Bible are both a sign of God’s extravagant care and a sign that the Israelites’ desires need transforming. We are not exempt from the desert wanderings—but how else would we be transformed?”
Ah, how indeed? See you in the comments, my friends.
P.S. Next bird? The vulture.