Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. Exodus 16: 4 NRSV
We arrived in Portland ten days ago today.
This is the geographic destination upon which my sights have been set for a full 15-months. More accurately, this is the geographic destination upon which God set my sights on that hot summer day in San Diego. As the people of God gathered around the Lord’s Table, the Holy Spirit laid the vision of a new church upon me. The vision was incomplete but the geographic location was clear. As time transpired I have been privy to a more complete vision. The onion slowly peeled.A piece of the picture revealed to me a piece at a time. The vision is still incomplete. (Read Onion Peels on the Treadmill for a further elaboration of the onion peel metaphor.)
Responding to that vision provided by the Spirit, I jumped in with both feet. I texted with my wife who was back in West Virginia. We chose to embrace the journey God had set before us by text! It is a journey we could have refused. For God has given each of us free will, only lures and nudges us toward that most loving response. We don’t have to choose any path we don’t want to choose.
So, began our 15-month journey to this geographic location. Our journey so far has included many things: letting go of possessions (moving from a 3-bedroom house to a studio apartment), letting go of preconceptions (thinking security came from our own plans), and abundant doubts even as we jumped in with both feet. I have also repeatedly forgotten that God reveals peel by peel my ministry. I am in one of those times.
Since arriving in Portland ten days ago I have felt that I was not doing something fast enough. I have a strong Puritan work ethic that ties worth to doing and accomplishing. Setting goals, implementation strategies, and outcomes assessment are not foreign to me. I’m an educator. At this juncture on the journey they have not been of the Spirit. (Though, I must also remember that they may be at some point.) The culmination of my work ethic, my insecurities, my doubts, and my lack of trust in God have manifest in the words, “I’ve made a terrible mistake!”
But have I?
I have followed the Spirit’s lure to Portland. I have been prayerful during the last 15-months (most of the time) and adapted to what have felt like twists and turns. Why do I think God would bring me this far just to abandon me? Reflecting on this, I am reminded of the Israelites wandering the wilderness. God hearing the cries of the Israelites, leads them out of Egypt. Once safe from the Egyptians, the Israelites wander the desert before arriving in the promised land. One of my favorite sections of the Hebrew Bible is in Exodus where, having been rescued the people began whining to Moses with their revisionist memories. In their hunger, they believe they didn’t want to leave Egypt. They would have been better off to have died in Egypt, they tell Moses.
God hears their cries and provides manna to satiate their appetites. The instructions are to only gather enough for the day. To only gather enough for the one day reflects a trust that God will not abandon them. God will listen to their cries tomorrow. God will peel away another layer of the onion when it is needed.
How hard this trusting in God is! How hard this listening and embracing the Spirit is! I want to sit down and write goals, objectives, strategies, and assessment outcomes but it is time to be. To listen, wait, meditate, and pray. I have enough manna for today. I have enough abundance for today and yet I yearn for tomorrow’s harvest.
God of the Peeling Onion,
You have always revealed, lured, and guided me in the past,
And I doubt.
Why do I doubt?
Why do I think I know better than you who are love manifest?
Why do I think your way, is the wrong path?
Why do I doubt that the One who knows every one of us and the spaces in-between,
is less aware of the “right” thing than I?
Help me to trust that you are with me.
Remind me that there is much to learn in this moment.
Remind me that being in this moment is an integral part of the journey.
Remind me that who I am called to be is a necessary ingredient for the place you call me.
Remind me to let go and be,
for like all of creation I am your creation.