I find a strange rest in running. Some of you might be able to identify with that, while others of you are convinced I just boarded the crazy train. It’s not a physical rest, obviously, but a mental one. The moments in which my body and brain take a simultaneous break are rare, so mental rest often demands a payment of much huffing and puffing…and pretending I’m good at running.
A few months ago, I was out struggling – I mean, running, I was out running – and the beauty of my surroundings reminded me of the manna I’ve spoken about before. Nature was all around me, in song to something way bigger than itself. Have you ever paid close attention to how things grow in the wild? The plants all seem to know how to work together to have their own place, even if inextricably mixed together. I’m lost for eloquent words to describe how it makes me feel, but it really is a beautiful thing to behold. It’s like a dish with many ingredients mixed together. Not every bite has every ingredient, and any number of flavor combinations could happen with any given spoonful, but the whole of it is pleasurable in taste. This path beside a lake and through the woods is full of color and texture and light. Even weeds and vines are beautiful there. Is it that the wilderness, in its unintentional, overgrown, tangled beauty somehow reflects my heart? Is that why my soul feels full of breath and life when I’m in the middle of it?
I thought about creation, and the privilege we have to even look at something that resembles God. I thought about sitting on my deck in perfect weather, and how God must feel something like that. I thought about ocean water at heart-level, and how big God is, and how I’m completely swallowed up in something so grand. I thought about my children, and how they are image bearers of God, and what luck I have to see Him reflected in them.
I remembered a time I was lying in bed, awake, probably taking a few minutes to rest my weary bones. I pictured my daughter standing at the foot of the bed. I don’t remember our conversation, but I remember how beautiful she was to me in that moment. Her head was tilted slightly, making her sweet face somehow look sweeter. Her hair was hanging down the side of her face, like sheer curtain panels, just letting her eyes be revealed. It rested on her shoulders, in tousles of gold. In this unassuming moment, I beheld a part of the King. She’s beautiful like He is, she is sweet like He is, her hair moves like He moves, she is a refuge like He is. She was fearfully and wonderfully made, and I get to experience that on a daily basis. What grace, what manna.
These things I’m lucky to have – nature, my wife, my son, my daughter, music, dance, art, and on and on – aren’t happenstance; they are God on display in this fallen world. Daily bread – manna – is actually Himself. How gracious is He to allow us to know even a part of Him? Even the most amazing wonder of creation that we can fathom is merely a foretaste. I consider myself blessed to see a shadow of what’s to come; it keeps me seeking.
What’s mind-blowing about this daily bread is that it is what is meant to sustain us. Fortunately, it is made up of the most beautiful things we could imagine. Of course the challenge is to remember this sustenance in seasons of drought or famine. When fear comes to knock, the answer is manna. When doubt calls our name, our response is manna. When sadness threatens to drown, our life jacket is manna. When turmoil comes to battle, our shield is manna. When need exists, our fill is manna.
In honesty, most of the time I fail to remember this; these sustaining truths slip my mind in the middle of hard times. But, if I were face to face with the person of Jesus, and He were to ask me “what do you need?” In light of how lavishly the Lord has given of Himself to me in daily bread, the only answer I could possibly muster is “what I already have”.