It has been ages since I attended Sunday school. As a youngster, I used to go every week to learn all about that lovable cast of Bible characters, of which my favorites were in the Old Testament. Don't get me wrong, I'm totally down with JC (Happy Easter!) -- but some really colorful shenanigans went down in the "OT" -- the talking serpent, the murderous Cain, the studly Joseph and the blundering Pharaoh (a.k.a. the biblical Homer Simpson. Doh!)
Of all of those action packed stories, there is one in particular that bugs me. Let me set the stage for those of you who skipped Sunday school or weren't paying attention.
The setting is the Arabah Wilderness. Moses freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, and they were now wandering around, bored out of their minds and kvetching. You would think they would have a little more appreciation for that fact they were no longer, you know, lugging around huge rocks to build pyramids, some of them getting crushed alive like bugs in the process. (I'm not sure if that last gruesome detail is actually in the Bible, or just an unforgettable scene in the classic Ten Commandments movie.)
Apparently short attention spans are not exclusive to the 21st century. After a while the Israelites forgot all about the bad old days in Egypt and started a bitch fest -- they're hungry, they're pissed off, they would rather be in Egypt where at least they had bread.
So what does God do? He rains down food from the sky -- Manna from heaven. It's a bread that tastes like wafers made of honey. You can bake it, you can boil it or just eat it plain. Sounds kind of like Pop Tarts, but more nutritious. Food, falling ready made from the sky. Kerplunk -- dinner is served!
Pretty impressive. I think we can all agree that this is straight up miraculous. I think if I saw food raining from the sky and ate it, I wouldn't need any further convincing that some divine being was up there, looking out for me. Okey dokey. I get it now. You got my back. Hear ya loud and clear, boss!
Wouldn't you know it, a few months later, while Moses is up on the mountain, busy transcribing the ten commandments, the Israelites start to get impatient and doubtful again. They start worshipping a Golden Calf, defying everything they had witnessed, all the miracles they had seen, including the Manna from heaven, cause, you know, that was then and this is now. What have you done for me lately, God?
Really? This is where I have trouble suspending my disbelief. This is pure folly. Complete idiocy. What were they thinking?
Whatever. I myself could never be so forgetful and cavalier. If I had witnessed a miracle, I would never become doubtful again, never become discouraged at the first sign of trouble or inconvenience.
Oh yeah, except...when I do.
Here in this garden where I sit and write, Monarch butterflies float above my head and alight on springtime blooms.
Miracles are happening around me all the time, but I'm too busy to notice because I'm nose deep in my Facebook feed: "Oh my god, Janet is 'In a Relationship' with Tim? I didn't even know they were dating."
The butterfly skims my keyboard. Yoo hoo, wake up, Daisy!
Have you stopped lately to ponder that Monarch butterflies migrate 2,500 miles every year to the same breeding area? On wings thinner than paper? 2,500 miles. You try walking just 25 miles and tell me that's not a jaw dropping feat. And did you know that Monarchs hibernate on the very same trees every year when the are migrating to their destination? Even though they are not the same butterflies as the year before? How does this new generation, that has never flown the route before, know which trees are the right ones?
Not like they go on the internet and type into Google maps: "Best trees to hibernate in."
Somewhere deep in butterfly cells is an ancient GPS that tells them where to go.
I would call that a miracle.
In my own life, how many wonders have I have simply stashed away in my mental file cabinet of memories -- been there, done that?
How about the time a driver who ran a red light plowed into my car, sending it and me airborne and tumbling through the streets, landing in a twisted heap on its side? I walked away without a scratch. How about all the people who appeared at just the right times to help me finish my film when I most needed them? How about the gifts that came out of every life challenge -- the lessons, the insight, the self knowledge -- that I never would have received if I hadn't wandered through the wilderness?
What are the manna from heaven in your life, that you have forgotten?
And yet, sometimes, I still get disheartened when things are not working out just as I think they should, on my timeline. I still feel my stomach tie up in knots because I encounter a problem that I don't know how to solve. I still hyperventilate when faced with uncertainty, as though I haven't witnessed miracle after miracle before.
Poor Moses, he's throwing up his hands. "WTF? Seriously, woman?" He says. "For the umpteenth time -- Trust me, it will be okay. Remember?"
Let us remember this Easter. That sweet taste of honey.
The butterflies. The grace. The fragrant manna.