Monday, February 11, 2013

in the middle of provision

But Jesus replied,
"I have a kind of food you know nothing about."
John 4:32
Middle Places. I remember the night I first heard that phrase spoken in the the context of a collaborative blog, an online community. My heart leapt a little right there in the middle of Sasha's kitchen. "Oh, I know all about middle places," I said, "My whole life is a middle place."
 
Isn't that true for all of us in one way or another? Isn't that what resonates among us here? We are all sojourners traveling along, sharing life together as we walk this path between life and life eternal. But at the same time, we each have our own in betweens that are more definitive.
 
 One of my many middles is the middle of the wait, the holding on to a promise in faith - and we know that faith "is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see" (Hebrews 11:1).
 
Yes, this - the wait - is one of my most and least favorite middle places. The most because it is constantly teaching me invaluable spiritual lessons in patience, perseverance and faith; and least, well, because it is also teaching me some of the hardest hard.
 
The middles of life are often crossroads where we experience both a crisis of faith and a critical choice.
 
There is a portion of scripture that illustrates this poignantly for us, and as I was studying this last week, one particular verse leapt right into my heart...
 
In Exodus 16, we find the Israelites settling the [aptly named] Desert of Sin. At this point, it's been about six weeks since they have been led out of Egypt. Literally, rescued by the hand of God by miracle after miracle after miracle that we couldn't begin to wrap our modern-minded brains around. The plagues, the passover, the passing through a path of dampened ground surrounded by walls of sea water. They were delivered from the bondage of unbearable slavery and headed towards the promised land, flowing with milk and honey.
 
But they weren't prepared for the in between.
 
Undoubtedly, they were growing weary in the wilderness. They were tired. Hungry. Thirsty. I think about my own life and how irrational and easily frustrated I can become when I am any combination of those three things. They began to grumble and complain and some even expressed longing for Egypt. They reasoned that they would've been better off in the very place that God had rescued them from. At least there, in the bondage of slavery, they'd had provision - their physical needs were met.
 
Oh, how I have been in this same place of reasoning in my own life. When the Lord leads us to a pathway through life that is winding through the wilderness, it is in our very human nature to want to turn back to that which seemed easy, or fulfilling - yes, even if it's something God has rescued us from.
 
And so, God hears the cries of His people. Yes, these whining, ungrateful, frustrated and angry people of His. And you know what He does?
 
He rains down manna on them.
 
Selah.
 
Oh, how I love this. I love this because this is just a glimpse into the heart of our God who shows us the same unmerited favor and who rains His blessing down on us. Yes, even when the worst of us is on display for all to see.
 
And here's the thing. You know, the thing that leapt off the pages of my bible and directly into my heart: God could've rained down storehouses full of manna, but He didn't. He rained down just enough for that day. His word tells us in verse 18 that each person had "exactly what they needed" to sustain them for that day - and only that day.
 
In our humanness, it's easy to wonder - as the Israelites did - why God went to so much trouble to deliver them only to allow them to suffer through the grueling journey to the promised land, through the hard middle places of the wilderness. But when we see His heart for them - and ultimately, for us - our perspective shifts and we begin to realize all the things He desires to teach us along this journey through the middles, and yes - through the wait.
 
I believe, wholeheartedly, that He desires a relationship with us so much that He often allows us to walk through the hard places - the wilderness - so that we will learn, like the Israelites, what it means to seek Him daily, to be completely dependent on Him, to fully trust in His promises - and rest in His perfect provision.
 
Can I encourage you today that whatever you are walking through, whatever your middle place is in this life at this moment, God desires to give you His perfect provision.

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