A small flame

A small flame

painting a masterpiece . . . of Egypt

If you've been following my personal thoughts from my Bible study about food and eating, this one is going to be a slight deviation. But it's important, I promise :O)

Here's Numbers 11:

1 Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. . . 4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”. . . 10 Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The LORD became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. .

As I was reading this story recently, those last two sentences painted a ridiculous picture in my mind: the Israelites, sitting in the doorways of their tents, sobbing and wailing to go back to Egypt.

Now, just to be clear, they weren't hungry! This wasn't a group of starving people here. God has been feeding them faithfully every day with his provision of food from heaven. They just weren't' content. Nope, they wanted something different. They wanted cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. They wanted meat. And those cravings for things they didn't have had them sobbing in their tents, playing the 'if only' game. Getting all teary-eyed and wishing they could click their heels and be back in Egypt. Egypt! Where they had been harshly-treated slaves given impossibly-heavy work loads, where they had been beaten and even killed and where their children had been killed by royal decree (something that Moses was living testament to). . . things had NOT been so great there!

The Lord's taught me some pretty important lessons about contentment over the years! I am often tempted to 'paint pictures of Egypt'! I feel discontented with where God has me and wish I was back in some other time or place, even though there were just as many hard things in my life when I was there as there are wherever I currently am! It was a water-shed day for me when I realized that, no matter which side of the globe I was on, I wanted to be on the other side. The funny thing about being discontentment is that it gives me amnesia. Discontentment is a black hole that sucks away all perception of joy and blessing from wherever-I-am-now and deposits it all (in my mind, at least) to wherever-I-used-to-be. I forget that where I came from had its share of hard stuff too. All I can see is this gorgeous, rosy, masterpiece I've created of where I used to be, when the reality is that each place has its good and its bad.

Yep. I'd have made a great Israelite!

The great news is that, since God is directing my journey, every new place he takes me holds something that is better for me and my growth in Christ-likeness than the last place.

So, I've taken my picture of Egypt down, and in its place I have this old prayer which I've loved for a long time:

How can I thus be bold to pray
that though shalt grant me that or spare me this?
How should my ignorance not go astray?
How should my foolish lips not speak amiss?
To ask for woe when fain they would ask for bliss.
How shall I dare to prompt thee, the all wise, to show me kindness?
Thou art ever kind.
What is my feeble craving in thine eyes
which view the centuries vast – before, behind –
and sweep unnumbered worlds like viewless wind?
Thy goodness ordereth what thing shall be.
Thy wisdom knoweth even my in-most want.
Why should I raise a needless prayer to thee
or importune omnipotence to grant my wishes
dim, shortsighted, ignorant?
And yet I come, for thou hast bidden and said,
But not to weary thee or specify a wish,
But rather with this prayer instead
O Lord,
Thou knowest, give it or deny.
Fill up the cup of joy or pass me by.
Just as thou wilt is just as I would will.
Give me but this – the heart to be content
And, if my wish is thwarted,
To lie still
Waiting ‘til puzzle and pain are spent
And the sweet thing made plain
That thou has meant.
- Susan Cooledge

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