Our Daily Bread
The other day I was reading the daily Lenten reflections I've received during this season from the Center for Contemplation and Action---the organization founded by Fr. Richard Rohr--when I discovered something unique.
The particular reflection I was reading was from Estelle Frankel's book, The Wisdom of Not Knowing, and the focus was on a story from the book of Exodus from the Hebrew Scriptures.
After escaping 400 years of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites in the Exodus found themselves in the wilderness where food was scarce.
Even though it would mean returning to servitude to the Egyptian Empire, many began to talk openly about turning back so they would at least have the certainty of food security.
The text tells us that God gave them daily sustenance through manna, which means, "What is it?"
Every morning the ground around the Israelite encampments would be miraculously covered in a type of bread, and they were instructed to only gather what they needed for the day.
If they gathered more than enough, the stockpiled manna would go bad. So each day, they had to learn to trust there would be enough "daily bread."
Estelle Frankel puts it like this:
The manna provided the necessary preparation for becoming a free people, for freedom requires an ability to bear uncertainty, to not know what is going to happen next, and to trust in the unfolding journey…
In all of my years of reading that story, studying it in seminary, preaching on it, and the like, I've never heard the lesson of manna put quite like that.
Indeed, many things in our lives keep us from experiencing true freedom--the kind of freedom that comes when we are fully surrendered to God's purposes.
We are held captive by the anxieties and worries of lives lived in servitude to consumerism, materialism, and all the negative "isms." We exist in a cacophony of distractions, voices, and noise, all vying for our attention.
And we crave the security that comes from having enough, being enough, and ensuring there will be enough, even as we feel there never is enough. So it becomes all too easy for us to prefer servitude over freedom, certainty over uncertainty, and ego over surrender.
Frankel goes on to offer this bit of wisdom in response:
Instead of seeking the answers that might put their questions to rest, the manna taught the Israelites to continually live the questions, to understand that the journey to freedom is about remaining awake and curious and not going into sleep mode.
When Jesus taught his followers to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," I think he had this story and this truth in mind.
Freedom comes when we trust that the One who holds our future is already preparing a place for us there. Freedom comes when we realize that returning to Egypt is not an option---the best and truest way is forward into the wilderness and beyond.
Manna can come in many forms. It can be a word of encouragement from a friend, an unexpected turn that leads us to abundant joy, or a discovery of a blessed gift that meets our daily needs.
May we learn what it means to trust God for our daily bread. May we learn to live in uncertainty with faith and hope and, most of all, trust that God will supply all we need when needed.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us now and always. Amen.