Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Eeyore in the Wilderness

This week's scriptures are Exodus 15:22-16:3 and Luke 4:1-13.

As I read and re-read this passage from Exodus and set it in its position in the Exodus narrative, it is as if somewhere between the choir singing "How Great Thou Art" and "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" Eeyore had come to the pulpit to proclaim in that famous sliding voice of depression: "O well, I guess we're doomed. There are no more thistles to eat; my stick house has blown over; and my tail has fallen off again."

Three days prior Miriam has been leading the women in singing "Sing to the Lord, for he has risen up in triumph: horse and rider he has hurled into the sea." Now at Marah they are complaining because the water there is bitter. But wait...there's more. Shortly after this we hear the words, "If only we had died at the Lord's hand in Egypt, where we sat by the fleshpots and had plenty of bread! But you have brought us out into this wilderness to let this whole assembly starve to death."

This "grumbling in the wilderness" is going to be an ongoing theme or motif throughout the Exodus journey. Which would be okay, I guess, if it wasn't so close to my own behavior as I travel from Lent toward Easter.

I begin to question what I've gotten myself into committing to Lenten Spiritual Disciplines that leave me uncomfortable and longing for the soothing objects or behaviors that I committed to taking a break from. I forget that the discomfort I'm feeling is a part of the process of guiding me toward the healing that I need to encounter in God's time and grace. And I begin to look backward toward the past through what some call the "pink cloud" of forgetfulness. When we look back through the "pink cloud" all the problems of the past are erased...they just disappear. I am treated to only the really good parts of my memories of gobbling down a large pizza (remember last week's blog?). My mind gently lays aside the memory of painful heartburn and instant weight gain.

Listen to the "pink cloud" version of life in Egypt where "we sat by the fleshpots and had plenty of bread." Perhaps meat and bread were provided by their Egyptian taskmasters (though I doubt it); but gone are the memories of whip and crushing labor and the Pharoah's power to make arbitrary decisions ranging from "more bricks with less straw" to "kill all the boy babies."

But beyond the obvious concerns about water and food is, I think, a deeper concern. And it is a concern that rears its head any time we step away from an 'attachment' or 'addiction' or 'soothing mechanism.' It is the dual concern of Dependence and Faith. Now they (the Israelites) and we (you and I) have to depend on something we cannot control. The bitter water at Marah is made sweet-not because of something they did, but because of something God did. The 'fleshpots of Egypt' will be replaced by a gift that they cannot control (more about that next week).

See, part of the issue with 'soothing behaviors' is that they are based on a "bondage mentality" that says, "I'd better take care of my own needs; because nobody else is going to." Now we may have come by this mentality honestly. And our sense that we have to utilize our own drive, skills, and talents may have served us well....for a while. But when we are called to make ourselves dependent on God in faith that God will guide us toward healing and wholeness and the Kingdom of God....it becomes a barrier. It is hard to let go, to trust....at least that's my experience.

Another important point is that this 'roller coaster ride' between Praise & Adoration and defensive grumbling is a given part of the journey. Maybe instead of flogging ourselves over it we can spot it when it comes and ask ourselves, "I wonder why this is happening now?" That question, even if we've just finished gobbling down a large pizza may help us get back on the track of looking at what is going on with us, what needs to heal, what God is trying to teach us.....which is, we remember, the point of all of this in the first place.

Hope to see you Sunday.

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