The Hebrews called manna “What is it?” But most of us don’t have a clue what we want — or need.
I met a man who got used to wearing hospital ID bracelets. At first, he fought them, hated them, even feared them. In time, he became acclimated, started making his own bracelets. When I met him, both arms were covered. They hid the pock marks of picc lines and constant IV sticks. His culture became bracelets. Owning what he had once feared, he lost his fear.
I met this man at a donut shop. I had developed an extreme chemical sensitivity after Lyme Disease had compromised my immune system and turned me into an invalid. I had been avoiding everything inflammatory, everything bread and bread-related, yeasts, sugar, corn syrup, msg, artificial sweeteners, food coloring, chemicals, and preservatives, just to keep functional. As a result, I was five years symptom-free, but only if I didn’t cheat.
Since discipline went against my very nature, this did not come easy.
Still, I turned down 99% of the menu.
The Bracelet Guy had just lost his wife to cancer and wanted to buy a round of donuts for the staff and patients at the oncology clinic. He, too, had cancer, but it was in remission.
“My mother swore off having any more children after me,” he said. “Then, my brother was born. We all loved him and teased him for being the baby and for, pretty much, being an afterthought. But when I needed a stem cell transplant, my little brother stepped up. He was a perfect match. He saved my life.”
At the end of the counter, a man was sitting next to a pretty woman at a laptop computer. She was looking at a spread sheet. The man said, “My business partner got a kidney because she bought a pumpkin patch,” indicating the woman on the stool next to him.
“What?” the man with the bracelets asked.
It’s true, “ the woman said. “The Lord told me to buy a pumpkin patch. So, I did. People started coming, and in a brief time, I met the woman who gave me a kidney.”
Manna is what you need when you need it.
The Hebrews called manna what is it.
But most of us haven’t a clue in the world what we really need.
I was at this point in my life. Who would show up to give me what I needed, when I had no idea what that was?
Why would someone else know what I couldn’t give to myself?
The Denny’s at the corner of Hasato and Grande in Portland, Oregon, is a wormhole where nothing matters anymore. And that’s a good thing. It is a warm place with faces that change, some regular, some strangers on appointment. It was Richard, a native and Vietnam Vet, who gave me the heads up about the space between chaos and silence, where a person can be alone in peace, where the vibe is low frequency, and the wait staff is like an ER for brokenness, the constant coming and going like rehab. These are all-night kinds of places where the coffee’s good and hot and the people who frequent there forge a bond not unlike family. These are strangers you wind up telling your secrets to, and so, when people began to ask me for my name, I thought about lying, making something up on the spot, because sitting there at the corner of Hasato and Grande, I couldn’t believe in the person I had become back at home.
I knew the answer to my unspoken question, but I was afraid to hear it.
Back home, I existed in a kind of limbo, like a cicada I once found stuck to a tennis ball, sitting in his shell: immovable. I was stuck in about three kinds of grief, and the thing about grief is, it’s a living thing. It will move in and eat you out of house and home.
It will steal your dreams and make your soul brittle and dry.
It is an addiction, and you can give it all your time, and still, it is never enough.
My brother died, and twelve months later, my husband told me he wanted to live alone.
He chose to tell me on a day when I went blind in my right eye.
The whole thing was very Greek. I was blind, and then, smack. Revelation.
I had been living in a carnival. They were pulling the tents down. I had not had the sense to go home. Leftover cotton candy at the bottom of the cardboard handle told me the jig was up. Still I would not let go.
And so, grief came, asserting itself as my new compatriot, my cruise ship director and master of ceremonies. Grief stole the light of life, painted rooms with gray haze. Grief was a fake friend and the bottomless pit at the end of my day.
Back in 2018, I had to explain to my brother that he was dying, that they were all out of moves and it was checkmate. People came and went in the hospital room, wearing the same hopeful expression I now wore in the closing of the business of marriage. And now, I had to explain to myself that my marriage was over, that I was now 0 for 2, that my legacy for the rest of my life could very well be surviving — alone.
I was not obtuse enough to try and stop it, but I was naive enough to try and understand it.
People make decisions. I tried arguing with God. I complained that I couldn’t put my marriage back together because my husband didn’t want it. He had plans of his own. He had made a decision. I couldn’t reverse it. I just had to accept the consequences.
I felt in my spirit something sigh. I knew it was the Holy Spirit.
“This is how it feels, isn’t it?” I asked God. “When we decide not to love you. When we go our own way.”
For that reason, we should never judge a divorced person.
Because God doesn’t cross us when we divorce Him.
There is not just one divorce; there are many, and they come daily. We have divorced God many times.
Grief is a chain-smoking, pregnant woman blowing smoke in your face to assert her right to destroy the life within her. You can’t reason with Grief. You just want it to go away, but it won’t. It’s attached like a drunken friend continually asserting his love for you at the top of his lungs. He calls you at three in the morning.
Jeez, Grief, shut up, why don’tcha?
You’re gonna wake the dead.
But there is nothing as alive as your own grief for something or someone dead or long gone.
Grief demands to be fed. Cake at two in the morning or maybe the covers pulled over your head.
To keep going is both heroic and robotic.
This keeps changing. Each day I felt differently about it. I was even different people on different days. Reduced to a character actor because Grief is the star of this show.
The Bread of Life is the stuff of life, the everyday source for living, breathing. Paul said we live and move and have our being in Him. We are continually supplied through the Body directly from Yeshua as our source. In Him, all things consist.
But we can buy bread of our own choosing, chase after strange gods to salve the hollowed- out place grief has made. Often those gods are closer than they appear. Grief is not an Adventure. There are no desperate adventurers. The desperate seek the illusion of safety. Often those closest to us enable us to continue stumbling in the dark.
At my own tipping point, what I most needed was being defined for me. I had grown dependent on the way things had always been, but leaning on illusion had set me up for losses, making me deaf, dumb, and blind. You never see your losses coming, but Grief is always there to take you through the darkness. And if we’re not mindful of the force of our grief, it’s intimate association with Death itself, Grief will move in and become our constant companion. We will live for it and give everything for our need to hold on to the way things used to be.
“The Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” There are some things that are lawful, but they are not Godly.
At the corner of Hasato and Grande, the last morning I drank coffee handed to me from the Denny’s wait staff, I happened to look up in time to see a truck backing into a dock across the street. The word “Thrive” jumped out at me in huge letters.
That was the problem on its face. I was surviving Grief. But thriving was another matter.
It was high time I looked into that.