Ellen Romer Niemiec
Giving Up Manna
I wonder what manna tastes like. Did it start off as deeply satisfying, as if nothing could ever taste as good? How quickly did it lose its luster? I think about the Israelites and what it was like to gather their first produce from their promised land. I can imagine joy and excitement in the relief that they had arrived. Did they fear the loss of the manna and the assurance that they would be fed? True, they didn’t need it anymore. But, what if the goodness they had finally found went away?
I wonder what the prodigal son felt when he saw his father. He knew he was not the same person he was when he left home. He squandered his inheritance and found himself with nothing. He was envious even of the pigs he tended and knew deeply what hunger and shame felt like. The father is not the same and has been changed in his grief of his son’s choices and the unending joy of his son’s return. Their relationship is not the same. It is not by any means a bad relationship. The father’s love is unending and joyful and his son gets to learn that whatever he did and however he is changed he is still deeply and unconditionally loved.
There is so much comfort in what we know and in what we’re used to. Our minds and our hearts like the reassurance that the comfort we may have found, in whatever form it is, will remain. It doesn’t always mean this comfort is good. Sometimes that comfort is addiction - to alcohol, to power and influence, to food. Sometimes the comfort is good. Manna was reliable and necessary when the Israelites wandered the desert. Knowing you have a steady paycheck to keep a roof over your head and food on your table is an important good.
Is the source of that paycheck really what God invites you to? Is that paycheck, with all the dignity it provides, keeping you from hearing God’s invitation to something new? Something more? Letting go of what we know can be terrifying and risky. What if we need the manna again? Will it come back? If I lose everything and mess up terribly, will God still take me back?
We are rapidly approaching Easter and the celebration of new life that triumphs even over death. Letting go of his own earthly life was not simple for Jesus or for those who loved him. In fact, it was painful and tortuous. But, instead of simply inviting us over and over again to let go of our old lives and dive into something new, God showed us by example what courage and true unconditional love can do.
God is always inviting us to new life. What might we need to let go of? What is keeping us so comfortable that we can’t see the fullness of God’s love for us? What is keeping us from being that love for others?