EBDesperation has a way of forging a greased path from my mouth to God's ear. It is a cable connection, lightning quick: God, help us. We have no job. The house will not sell. The mortgage payments keep coming. The money is running out. Hurry. Please.
His response, however, comes via dial-up, with finger-tapping, stomach-churning slowness. We are the Hebrews, perched on the banks of the Red Sea, camped between Migdol and the water, horses' hooves thundering, doom imminent. We cry out, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt?" That land of abundance where at least the children's bellies were full. Where we, despite occasional beatings, had homes and occupations and some semblance of comfort. Why?
Who needs faith when the checking account tops five digits, the children are healthy, and the job is "recession-proof?" When everyone is covered 80/20 by a head-to-toe health insurance policy? When business is good and clients abound, when the furnace is working and the pantry is stocked? When transmissions work and no one is in the hospital and the 401K is fully vested and all the disks in our backs are unherniated and no one is complaining of mysterious stomach pain? Faith is a frosting. A fringe benefit. An overly abused nicety that we talk about while sitting on padded pews in warm church buildings.
So, we wonder if we have been brought here just to die in the wilderness. A windy, hot prairie of suffering, with absolutely no hope on the wheat-filled horizon. What comfort now are those mutual funds, those stocks, that perfect credit rating? They offer no comfort now, no hedge against disaster. They are a quilt, wrapped around us on an icy day that, as it turns out, is mildewed and chock-full of moth holes.
The extra bedrooms, the fat layer of space between our neighbor's property and ours, the tax bracket of our particular street bring nothing now but mockery of the faith we put in status and excess and a garage full of a year's worth of toilet paper. Life really can't be that bad if the chest freezer is chock-full of briskets and shredded cheese and containers of last year's raspberry freezer jam, can it?
Whilst chomping on the fatted calf, however, the illusion persists, that somehow it all will save us. That the flat screen TV and the Restoration Hardware couches and the hardwood floors will, really, truly be enough. God is our Plan B, the cream, the juicy red maraschino cherry on top of an already delightful sundae. Not the coarse brown bread, the vegetable stew of necessity. He is the expected, the taken for granted. The water flowing effortlessly through our pipes. The electricity humming silently behind walls.
In the eleventh hour, the walls of the sea parted, the path of safety appeared for the Israelites. Perched on the edge of financial ruin, will He do the same for us? He who could have kept Pharaoh's heart soft. He who could have kept us employed. He who could have opened the seawaters a week before.
The way out, the provision, comes cloaked. Nopillar of fire meets us at the front door. Manna does not rain from heaven, nor water from rocks. But odd jobs appear. Meat goes on clearance. Costco sends a $400 rebate. We winter without a single doctor's visit. Donuts mysteriously appear on the front step. All things we are thankful for, but a question remains: If these physical provisions did not appear, would God still be our Jehovah Jirah, our Provider? How can I sit at my children's bedsides at twilight, hearing their sweet lisped prayers of absolute rock-solid confidence that God will take care of them without resorting to cynicism?
They, in their childlike faith, know the answer, and it is embarrassingly simple: He Himself is the provision. He will not leave us nor forsake us. Perhaps being removed from numbing abundance will be the very thing necessary for the adults in the family to seek the Giver rather than His gifts. For us to feast on Him, and for that feast, even in our time of deepest hunger, to fill us.
What this looks like I do not know exactly. But I suspect I will spend the rest of my life finding out.