Two million persons trudged after their liberator, Moses, into the wilderness, where soon they murmured of hunger and thirst and accused Moses of leading them into the desert to die. At least in Egypt they had their flesh pots and ate their fill. So, God promised Moses he would rain down bread from heaven for them, and Manna was born. They awoke one morning and found the buttery flakes distilled out of the evaporating dew, melting away later in the scorching sun, and breeding worms and spoiling overnight. “Man-hu?” they asked each other—What is it? These men and women and children labored a good portion of every day to scrape and slurp enough manna to be filled for the day, manna lying on the ground like so much crepuscular frost. They consumed manna as their daily meal for forty years, grinding and baking it into little oily cakes. I do not like eating the same food two days consecutive, let alone two years, and perhaps we can sympathize with their licking frost every day for forty years, with a very occasional lusty glut on cucumbers and quail. No longer hungry, now they murmured about the monotony of manna, as would I, I am sure, and maybe you, too, sitting at their dinner table. “Our soul is dried away” they wailed upon seeing only manna, manna every day, weeks leading into four decades. What I could learn from their experience, I have wondered, both of being provided for and of complaining about the manna mundane. I have decided I can learn two principal lessons, the first to recognize quotidian providence, the second to choose elevated perspective, because I receive manna every day, tiny flaking flecks left after the night’s dew, in the form of little aids and prompts and truths that bless and build me. Uncountable portions of manna that nourish and connect us to Providence. I will grow weary of it, I know, and will yearn for meat and come to curse the blessing. The question is whether I am smart enough and strong enough both to recognize the manna in my life and to be grateful for that manna despite its endless humble ubiquity. Today’s manna is not getting into a wreck on my long commute and listening to accounts of U.S. Grant’s principled integrity and grit and Mom and Dad enjoying their broccoli rice stir-fry without the spoiled discarded shrimp and sitting by Mom watching the sunset and the lawn sprinklers working after winter and the green grass and the waddling Mallards and the absence of strife and the presence of abundance and the love of family and for Dad giving his big blue walker a try for my sister and this desk and this computer and this Holy Bible translated with brilliance and beauty 500 years ago by the mad King James’ hundreds of scribes and scholars and my comfortable box spring bed and the work that pays the bills and saves for the future and children that love me and call me Dad and the children that kiss my cheek and call me Gwumpa. These buttery bits make life livable, and the questions for me are whether I can see the morning’s manna and can choose to be meekly grateful every day of the long years for its divine source and sustaining nourishment. Some moments I can; many moments I cannot; and every day I try again, even while scraping and cooking and savoring my forty-four thousandth manna meal, my bread from heaven in my wilderness.
Courage at Twilight: Manna in My Wilderness
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