I will turn 33 soon. I was not planning on being single at this ripe old age. I had zero expectation that I’d be making decisions on my own about car repairs, work, or where to live. And yet these are my days. Listening to the mechanic explain valves and check engine lights and a bill that makes me wish I had someone to run it by before agreeing to the repairs. Coming to terms with the truth that my career needs the attention that I had planned on giving to children. Scouring listings for rentals to share with roommates, not houses to buy with a husband.
None of these scenarios are bad, or unusual, or even frightening. I just was not prepared for them. These did not make it into my imagination when I dreamed what 33 would look like, and some days I hold singleness tentatively — not because it is not a good gift, but because I’m unsure what to do with it or how to use it.
In Exodus 16, the Israelites have been in the wilderness for a couple of months. They’ve seen their God send locusts and hail and boils and darkness and death upon Egypt. With their own feet they trod the earth that only moments ago had been seabed. The message has been received: God is great and not to be trifled with.
But … they are hungry. But they were promised milk and honey. But freedom wasn’t supposed to look like this, feel like this. We know what they did next, because we do it, too: they grumbled. They whined about wanting to go back to Egypt – to slavery, yes, but at least there was food.
God, because he is a good, good, Father, knows their hunger and instead of sending them to their rooms for being ungrateful, gives them food to fill their bellies.
In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. (Exodus 16:13–15a)
Isn’t that how it always goes? Just like the Israelites, we are hungry, and our Dad gives us food we don’t recognize. We were expecting marriage, and got singleness. We planned for a house in the suburbs and got an apartment in the city. We thought we’d have children — plural — and have one child — singular.
What is this gift? What should we make of this?
And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.” (Exodus 16:15b)
What is it? Today’s provision. Nothing more, but nothing less, either — even when it feels that way.
… They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. (Exodus 16:17–18)
“Whoever gathered little had no lack.” I love this and I fear it. I love that no matter what God gives, it is enough. He never gives us too little or leaves us wanting. I fear it — the same way I fear a thunderstorm, safe in my home but dumbstruck by its power raging outside — because God never gives us more than what we need, which means that He will sometimes not give us what we want, so long as what we want is not ultimately Him.
And yet this is not really a story about manna, is it, but the God who gives it. Not the gift, but the Giver. Because every time God’s people tried to take matters into their own hands and save some manna for the next day, it would rot and stink and be unfit for consumption. The manna only satiated their hunger for the day, so they would learn to depend on the God whose mercies are new every morning. They ate because He provided faithfully for 40 years, not because they were clever enough to find their own food.
And that’s integral to the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ. We can’t get the best life on our own. All our attempts at hoarding it only leave us with wormy, stinky bread. We get what God gives us because He knows best, because He loves best. So whatever we have today is enough, because it came from our Father who loves us. These little lives of ours that we didn’t plan for are no lack after all, because in Jesus, we have everything.
What is it? It is enough, because he is enough.