I have been reading the Day by Day Kid's Bible with the little boys since the beginning of the year. As we have watched the journey of the children of Israel through the wilderness, the repetitious whining of the Israelites has not been lost on my two little guys. They groan when they hear the complaints all over again. They eagerly ask "What was manna?" and declare "That would get boring to eat the same thing day after day." And they also point out that the children of Israel shouldn't complain so much because God is leading them and He has done magnificent things, like leading them out of slavery and bondage, and parting the Red Sea, and talking intimately with Moses. They are taking in this journey and responding to it in their own sweet ways.
But I'm experiencing the story all over again, as well. As I read about the Israelites' backward glances towards the life they left in Egypt, I feel my own pangs. It has been six years since we moved from Illinois to Indiana, to live in my husband's grandmother's home in the middle of the country. Back in Illinois, I had a job, a Bible study, a writer's group, and loads of friends. While I don't regret coming here (it has been such a blessing for the boys and for my husband and I fought for the chance to stay home with my younger two), it is hard not to make the same comparisons the Israelites succumbed to. Sure, we had our own situations of bondage back in Illinois, and God has taken us out of those particular chains and given us freedoms we never expected. Yes, God is guiding and providing every step of the way. Yes, His power is great and I thoroughly trust His leading. But, oh how the manna is making me sick. And, oh how I long for those solid meals enjoyed back in Illinois. The friends. The laughter. The community. The sense of belonging. I knew where I fit and what was expected of me. I didn't subsist on the provision of manna.
Those meals back in Egypt were filling and good. Why would God bring me into the desert and seemingly leave me to die? "How are You being served by my isolation and wandering?" I rail at God. Even though I can see the blessings all around me (the chance to be home with our sons, the time and space for writing that I never thought possible, the renewal of my marital relationship in ways I also never thought possible, etc.), I cannot shake the longing for what was left behind, for the life of comfort and certainty, for the clear vision of my place in the world. I miss community.
But I must remind myself that God is still providing. Even though the provisions don't match my longings, He is sustaining in the midst of this wilderness experience. He is leading, even when it feels like my soul is wandering without direction or purpose. He is guiding with a pillar of fire and a cloud.
We recently came to the point where the children of Israel reach the Promised Land and no longer subsist on a diet of manna. I had to remind myself that the Israelites wandered for forty years. FORTY YEARS! That's practically a lifetime. I'm probably right where they were at year six. I'm torn between gratitude for the manna and longing for the meals back in Egypt. I don't know how many years my wilderness experience is slated for. Perhaps, I'm not even half-way through. Perhaps, I have years more manna to ingest. As I weary of hearing the Israelites complaining about their manna, I weary of hearing my own complaints and vow to seek out the gratitude more than the discouragement. But, like the Israelites, I'm human and my tendency is to focus on the lack rather than the provision. I need new eyes. I need His eyes. May the manna be enough. May He continue to guide even when I'm stubborn and rebellious and discouraged.