Today was the official end of a time I thought may never end, my season of, boy, what a tough word, unemployment.
I left my job in January, making a decision to stand by my personal convictions and professional standards of ethics in an extremely difficult situation. I chose, for better or for worse, to become unemployed and face uncertainty while looking for another position. This time was full of stress and chaos, but it was also full of peace and growth. The lessons learned during this time were lessons I could never have gained while working and I wouldn’t trade the new understandings I have for 8 months of human security.
1. The desert is preferable to bondage.
I found myself revisiting the story of the Exodus in those early days. I’d watched a History channel show where they examine archaeological evidence against biblical stories to see how they stack up. There was the story of walking out of a desperate situation into what looked like another desperate situation, but choosing the path that led to freedom, no matter how difficult it proved to be was worth it.
I would find myself in small panics. Bills. Wants delayed. Bills. Fearful imaginings. Bills. And Kermit would often say to me, “Would you rather be back at that place?” And every time it was the end of the panic. No, no I did not want to be back in that place. Whatever momentary mess I found myself into was a molehill in comparison to the mountain, no, volcano, I’d left.
I could see that time and time again I would chose to stand by my convictions and pinch pennies instead of laying down my sanity by laying down my beliefs and eat steak. I am blessed to be married to a man who supported me in that.
2. God gives enough manna for the day.
In Exodus 16, we read about God sending manna and quail to the Isrealites. Moses directs them to go out and gather up the food and cook enough for the day, not keeping any more for the following morning. However, some people did just that, hiding more than they needed and not trusting that if God could make manna appear on Monday, He could do it again on Tuesday. When they awoke in the morning they found the food had become rotten and filled with maggots overnight. God did not withhold the manna the following day, He just impressed upon them that He would be meeting their needs, not them.
Through these months, our needs have been met. We’ve stayed afloat during a time we thought we would certainly go under. My mother at one point observed that she was always impressed with how God sustained my family. I am not impressed. I am appreciative, grateful beyond measure, delighted, but never surprised. He met our needs in January and I expect He will met our needs in May and I expect He will meet our needs in August. He is consistent and He is faithful. He provided just enough time and again, and while we may not have been really storing away manna and quail for a lifetime, we were sustained, and walking into this situation, 8 months of sustaining provision was unimaginable. I am deeply grateful for it.
3. God walks in the desert with us.
God led the Isrealites by night with fire and by day with a cloud. He lit the darkness and shielded them from burning in the sun. When the begged for water or food, He met their needs, not taking them into the camps of other people with other gods to met their needs, but rather using the nature around them. If they followed the pillar that was God’s leading, He would take care of their needs. This is not to say that if you trust and follow God there won’t be lean times or even that there won’t be suffering, but it is to say that when you are starving or dead tired, God is right there with you to hear your cry.
I had a picture I drew in college of a girl sitting in a mud puddle created by her own tears. I think it’s stashed away in a box at my parents house. I’ve tried to draw it again lately but it doesn’t turn out right. But in my head I see that there we sit in a mud puddle of our own making and Jesus sits down in it with us to console us and to raise us up when we allow him to do so. We are not alone.
4. The only way to see the promised land is to trust and obey.
The first move was to step out of Egypt. The second move was to stay faithful to God in the desert. No easy task. Barely something that could be accomplished. But Joshua and Caleb are able to accomplish that task. They exemplify obedience and confidence in their God, encouraging their people to be brave and ready to enter the promised land, while their fellow spies warn against the dangers.
Milk and honey, guys. It’s this picture of sweetness and provision, if only they will trust in what the Lord has already said He’d give them. They see that there is no risk in this because God has gone before them. They are not leading, they are following.
But if you look around today, so few people are even leaving Egypt. We live safe lives with no challenge. We feel as confident in Christ as the stability of our IRAs.
Without hunger, there is no manna.
Without thirst, there is no water from the rock.
Without pursuit, there is no parting of the sea.
Without darkness, there is no pillar of fire.
Without heat, there is no pillar of cloud.
Until I was in a situation where I could barely rely on myself, I was unable to fully rely on him.
I have a job. I started that job today. It is a good job, stable and simple, without the emotional drain of the last phase of my life. I look forward to seeing how what God is going to unwrap in my life during this next season and I hope, I pray, that I will hold fast to the lessons of the wilderness.