Monday, February 11, 2008

Sleep Well

Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” (Exodus 16:19)

The story is thousands of years old, but little has changed. God still does what he said he would do. And we still do what God told us not to do.

As for God, he has forever been and always will be our provider. God knows what you need. God gladly listens to what you want – but he knows perfectly what you need. And what you need will not be withheld. Even in those moments when our needs and wants overlap, and we express our wants with impatience and speak of our lack with resentment. Even in those moments God graciously provides. That’s the way it was in the wilderness. That’s the way it is right now.

And as for us, we cheat. With our worry we scoop up tomorrow’s bread. Not content to gather Monday’s provision, our minds are already plotting Tuesday. Gratitude for what we find on the ground today quickly withers in the heat of our anxiety over next week, or next month. We pray on Sunday as Jesus taught us: “Give us this day our daily bread.” But on Monday we break the rules. We try to gather for Tuesday or for March. That’s the way it was in the wilderness. That’s the way it is right now.

When God provided manna to the Hebrews he gave some clear instruction on how it was to be gathered. They were to collect only what was needed for that day, no more, no less. The manna could not be stored overnight; they could not carefully ration out one days allotment so as to be sure that there would be breakfast the next morning. If they tried, they’d soon detect the stench of rotting manna filling their tents.

These instructions were given in order to teach them. With every new morning they would learn something about God. Their boldness in his goodness would grow with each sunrise as the dew lifted and the day’s provision lay on the ground. They were learning to trust, to let go.

One can easily imagine that in the darkness of the night, after the day’s manna had been consumed at supper time, after the children were sleeping, some fathers were lying awake and wondering if it would be there again in the morning. Having been schooled in trust that morning, the darkness of night brought the moment of surrender. Could they depend on what they were learning every day about their God? Could they let go of their anxieties about feeding the family and know that God would provide? Could they sleep?

Surrender is what your soul does in the dark of night that allows you to sleep, at rest in the care of God. We spend a lifetime learning to do this. Every new morning is a chance to learn again or perhaps to learn more. Two questions to guide your praying this morning: How did you sleep last night? What will you learn today?

Gracious God, you have always been faithful to provide what we need. You know what we need before we ask. And yet, we brood over tomorrow as if, for some random and unknown reason, you will forget us. Forgive the fear that keeps us awake at night and the pride that drives us to gather as much as we can each day. Teach us trust you more with every new morning, we pray. Amen.

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