I don’t know about you, but I like comfort thank you very much. I prefer to have things go just the way I expect them to. Now don’t get me wrong. I appreciate a carefully planned adventure from time to time. The kind where I know exactly when on my itinerary the cliff jumping is scheduled.
I’m not opposed to surprises, either. I like surprises. As in well-executed surprise parties. Not the kind of surprises that truly catch me off guard, making me wish that I could take the wheel and steer this keeling ship back home.
So, when I get to the part in Exodus where the children of Israel start complaining about having to wander in the wilderness without food and water, I understand their discomfort. I think that if I’d been part of that disgruntled caravan, I would have lifted my hands in the air and shouted out my agreement with a loud “Amen!” Then, I probably would have folded my arms across my chest, turned my back to the wilderness, and joined their chorus of complaints.
Yes. I would have turned my back to the wilderness. Because really? Who wants to deal with that?
Anyone who has ever spent any amount of time in the wilderness knows that it can be an unpredictable place. Taken at face value, spending time engaged in wilderness living seems daunting at best. The wilderness is desolate and barren and lonely and hot and dry and vast. I’d rather just avoid it, if you don’t mind.
I think those children of Israel must have felt the same way. They had cried out to God for some help and – in His miraculous way – God answered and delivered them. And, although it didn’t seem like it in the moments His children complained against Him, God truly did have a plan for them. It was a good plan. Really. It just wasn’t their plan.
And it definitely wasn’t comfortable.
So there they were. Kicking up dust and pitching a fit, trying their level best to avoid anything that remotely resembled anything wilderness-ish. God heard their fussing and decided to bless them in spite of themselves, because He loved them so very much. God told Moses and Moses told Aaron and Aaron told the people that food was on its way.
Aaron was telling the crowd about the meal that God was sending, and they must have gotten pretty excited about the news and started to look around for where the table was being set. I imagine myself in that crowd, craning my neck and squinting my eyes to peer over Aaron’s shoulder, hoping to catch a glimpse of a fruit bowl being brought out from God’s own kitchen. I hear whispers behind me – from the direction of the wilderness.
Maybe there’s a bit of pushing and a tiny bit of shoving as people all around me start to turn around to face the wilderness against which we’d all firmly set our backs – certain that the wilderness held nothing good for us. I think I would have slowly turned around and held my hand up to keep the sand from blowing into my eyes. I probably would have draped a corner of my tunic over my mouth and nose as I gazed over the heads of those who had turned with me to face the very same wilderness we’d been trying so hard to avoid.
When my eyes could focus and I finally caught a glimpse of what the wilderness had in store, I guess I would have stood in silent wonder. In fact, I think perhaps a holy hush fell over that entire crowd. Because – according to Exodus – it wasn’t until the people turned to face the wilderness that they saw the glory of God.
Imagine that! The glory of God! Right in the middle of the wilderness!
What do you do when you find yourself facing your very own wilderness experience?
(You can find the actual account of this story in Exodus, chapter 16. Or, click here.)
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