When Debbie, Tucker and I set out on our pilgrimage in the summer of 2007, we left with the words of the Gospels deep in our hearts and steady on our minds." take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff."
What we had was enough. Our faith in God alone was enough.
Fully believing that God was calling us to travel across this church and this land as a "face" of a non-traditional family of faith – two moms and their son – we sold most of what we had, gave away a lot more and put that which we thought we would need later into storage. We took off in our old motorhome and set about trying to live into what we perceived to be God's will for us.
Believing so strongly, hearing so clearly this call from God…still…we continually needed signs that yes, indeed, we were on the right path. Still…even though we had more than enough and were so full of passion that we touched people strongly enough with our story that they gave us love offerings to help continue our journey…still…we worried and fretted about how long, Oh Lord, how long would we have enough.
We are all such worrisome creatures. It seems to be against our human nature to be free of worry. It is a wonder that God has not throw up those proverbial hands and cried out in dismay "I want to start all over!" How we must frustrate the will of God every day!
I find some solace in my questioning and doubt when I read these passages from Exodus, Psalms and John. Paul seems to be the only apostle to have ever fully understand the whole of God's plan. Love one another and live as though this is our very last day. That, to me, is Paul's message throughout his letters. Oh, if we could only wrap our human hearts around that idea!
We crave so many things. Emotionally we are so immature in our faith. We are very similar to the Israelites in the wilderness. We resemble so closely those followers of Jesus who seem to work at being ignorant.
The days of the Israelites' liberation from captors are so clearly forgotten that being bound to Egypt seems more appealing than suffering what they think is too little from God. They cannot see the freedom that lies ahead…only what they have left behind…and this they obviously see through rose-colored glasses forgetting all the bad parts.
They ask for bread and and voila! A fine flaky substance appears on the ground for them from which they can make the bread. Yet they look at it and ask, "What is it?" Unable to recognize the very thing they asked for, they have to be told, "It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat." Because it is not in the form that they recognize and perhaps not the exact thing for which they asked, they can't see it for what it is…not only a gift from God but one which will sustain them.
Psalm 78 tells of all that God did for the people: they ask for bread and it is given to them. The bread was not enough so they ask for meat and it is sent to them. They eat and are filled after receiving everything for which they ask – those things for which they crave. Yet we know, if we read past verse 29, they continue their cravings nonetheless.
When we read the Gospel of John, is it any wonder that Jesus sounds a bit cross or irritated at those continually chasing after him? Here they are, following him everywhere, hanging on every word, yet still unable to understand. The followers of Jesus have everything before them that would heal their craving yet they constantly seem confused, unaware, blind to that gift from God, that water of life, the bread of heaven.
Jacob did not give the Israelites the well that provided them with water; Moses did not give them the bread from heaven. All these things came from God alone. Jacob and Moses were merely the instruments of God's will. Jesus tries to get it across to his followers that the signs are nothing – we cannot base our belief in the signs.
The people have to SEE or touch to believe. Without these tangible signs, all they are is just full for the moment. Jesus is all about eternity, not the moment.
Going through the discernment process right now, I am constantly faced with the desire to see a sign that all is well; that the call that I feel is truly from God.
During the pilgrimage that we were on, we continually asked ourselves if we were doing the right thing.
Why do we have to KNOW? What is this DOUBT? Is it so illogical to believe in this thing we call Holy Scripture?
Why are we so afraid to live beyond the margins of human logic to follow that profound understanding deep in our hearts – that place I believe that God resides within us? Our minds long to believe the words of Jesus, "Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believe in me will never be thirsty." But our ability to reason tells us that this is impossible. Of course, we will get hungry and thirsty, regardless of how much we want to believe. Logic tells us that it is ridiculous to leave everything, give up all ties to the certain and walk into that faith that God will provide; God will lead. We want to believe the story about the lilies and the birds. We need to believe that all we have to do is ask and we will receive.
This was proven to us at every stop along our pilgrimage – people want to believe. They listened to us from Ohio to California. They wanted to do what they believed we were doing. They felt our passion and yet they recognized our fear. It was the recognition of that fear and their belief that we continued in spite of it that grabbed their attention.
Walking in faith is not about walking without fear. It is about walking in faith in spite of the fear – the logic that tells us we are about to fall off the end of the earth, that we are walking into the unknown, into a definite uncertainty. Walking in faith is about following even when others question our good sense; it is about taking one more step with the only certainty being the belief in our hearts that God is with us.
No wonder the Israelites complained about the weird stuff on the ground. Logic told them is was nothing usable. I completely understand the questions from the people following Jesus – how did you get across the sea; where did the bread and fish come from; what else are you going to do that will help us believe? I doubt there is one among us who would not have felt the same way as all of these people.
We will continue at times to allow logic to overrule our hearts. It is just our way. God knows that. But it is also God that calls us into the unknown, to continue on even though we may be afraid. It is Jesus who tells us, "Do not be afraid." We cannot let our fear hold us hostage. Fear is natural…even logical. But God is bigger.
That is when that prayer comes into play; "Feed on him in our hearts with thanksgiving."
Logic is human and so is fear. To live in Jesus and to feed on him in our hearts is so much bigger.
We have the signs. These are plentiful. We just need to remember to remember.
Jesus is that water by which we will never again thirst. Jesus is that bread for which we will never again hunger.
And all we can do is to continue to pray just as the people following Jesus did, "give us this bread…always."