Manna and character

My oldest is now 12!!! I can’t believe it. Here she is cutting her cake while a very anxious Jake looks on.

Some roles and jobs/careers are so much a part of our lives that we have a hard time knowing what we would be like without them. Would we be different people? Yesterday I wondered what I would be like if I’d never had my children. (I have to admit that I sometimes ask this question and think, “I’d be more peaceful!”)

Maybe I would be more peaceful, but I think I would also be less flexible, more uptight, more serious in a not-good way. I’d be less aware of my own faults, less willing to seize joy in the unexpected, and less willing to expose my messiness (literal and figurative) to others.

God has given me an amazing gift for my character in the form of my children.

In any role that is so much a part of us that we can’t imagine life without it, it can be easy to forget that this role is a gift, not just a gift for others or a gift that brings enjoyment to US, but a gift that is meant to shape us and remind us.

When the Israelites were in the wilderness, gathering manna morning after morning (except on the Sabbath), they forgot that the manna was a gift. They forgot that it was the very thing that kept them alive. They forgot that the manna was teaching them some incredibly important principles:

  1. To trust God in the moment. He was already providing direction with the pillar of cloud/fire. Now He was taking it to an even deeper level and reminding them that even their daily food was a gift from His hand. Without Him, they would not survive, but He had promised to provide for them—and that promise applied to even the food they ate.
  2. To believe that God will continue to provide. The Israelites tried to do what we ALL do when we’re given a gift: they tried to hold onto it, to hoard it. They thought of it as THEIRS. But hoarding the manna didn’t work. The extra had worms the very next morning. It stunk!
  3. To be grateful, to remember it’s a gift and not take it for granted—or worse, to complain about it. God told Moses to preserve some manna in a jar. “’Let … it be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” Ex. 16:32.
  4.  To be creative with what God gave them. He told them they could bake or boil, even shape it into cakes. Maybe some of the Israelite men even figured out how to grill it! God knows our tastebuds. (In Deuteronomy 14:26 God talks about celebrating the tithe to the Lord. He tells the people to enjoy “whatever [their] appetite craves.”) The manna was good to the taste already, but God gave them freedom to create other flavors with it.

That certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but I can learn a lot from just these four things. After gathering manna for years upon years, the Israelites got pretty used to it. They thought of it simply as a job they had to do every day. It gave them food. It had to be done, blah, blah, blah.

Sometimes I have the same attitude toward my roles—my gifts. Being a wife, mother, writer, tutor, friend, neighbor… These are GIFTS to me, and with each gift come lessons that are meant to make me more and more like Christ.

Lord, help me to trust You in each moment for all my roles. Help me to trust that You will never leave me on my own to accomplish the work that You’ve called me to do. Help me to be grateful for it, and help me, please, to be creative in it, to take great JOY in it. And, finally, Lord, may I be shaped through it to look more like You.

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