I have found an important clue to my life in the first 5 books of the Old Testament.
Let’s just ponder the Israelites. They spend 430 years in slavery in Egypt. They multiply while being oppressed. We’re not talking a little light name calling, we’re talking horrible physical labor with guards who have weapons to keep people in line. Then they are delivered from slavery by God through Moses and Aaron. The Hebrews at this time have all grown up in slavery in Egypt. They had likely heard stories about Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, but they may have been like distant fairy tales that meant nothing in the reality of daily toil.
So here God is through Moses with PLAGUES. Pharaoh finds it easy enough to not believe, but this guy is king and thinks himself to be a god.
The Hebrews, on the other hand are just watching while all this crazy stuff happens. Then they are ejected from Egypt and on the road. THEN God parts the Red Sea in front of them (not a puddle), while simultaneously keeping the Egyptian army (who was chasing them by this time) from reaching them. Then He destroys their enemies by allowing the Sea to fold in on them.
All that, plus a lot more, and what do the people do? They complain….
It’s easy to judge them until you really start to think about the mindset of a slave or really anyone who has been oppressed for a period of time.
Initially I connected this progression of attitude with some adopted kids I know (not all of them). A few of them have come from pretty hard backgrounds and were adopted by super amazing parents. But how did (a few of them) spend the first couple of years after adoption? Complaining.
I considered this in a kind of anthropological way.
Then I started to realize that I am just the same.
Here’s how that came about. I have been absolutely broke. Not able to buy food or pay my phone bill or my school fees. On top of that, there are several other things I would love to have- a nice lens for my camera, clothes without holes, a nice boyfriend. As I studied these books I kept feeling angry. I couldn’t really figure out why and I had a lot of work to do, so I put off figuring it out and just forged ahead. Angry.
Then it hit me that I was angry because of all these things I want. Notice I say want. Though I haven’t had money to buy food, I have had food (just enough). Though I haven’t been able to reactivate my phone, I certainly have the ability to communicate with friends (hi!) and though I don’t have a nice boyfriend, I absolutely have loving friends and a loving God who is constantly with me and making Himself known to me.
But here is why I was angry. I kept thinking about what I went through before coming to Colorado. You know what I’m talking about… and there’s also a lot you don’t know. Those were very hard and painful years. I kept thinking (before I was really consciously thinking) that I deserve good things now because I endured hard stuff.
Do you hear me? I didn’t even know that was in there!! But apparently studying 50 or more hours a week for 5 months wears a few defenses down.
So what did the Israelites need? What do kids need when they’re adopted out of traumatic situations? What do adults need after spending a few years being broken down by life?
Once they (we) are set free, we need to be taught how to be again. We need discipline and we need people (or God) who is willing to spend a lot of time with us. We need the essentials. We need kindness and guidelines (or rules).
What we do not need is pampering. Spoiling a person who has just been through long, hard times leads to… yep, spoiling.
I am grateful to feel hunger (as I said, I eat enough). I am grateful to be free and know what it is to “do without” in certain areas.
A few weeks ago I was talking to God and I was saying, “Hey, I know you can provide everything- all of this. I know you own the world. This tells me you must have a reason for allowing me to go without. What’s up?” His response?
“I want you to be hungry.”
I know that He didn’t just mean that He wants me to have a growling belly (although to be honest this helps sometimes like alcohol on an open wound). He wants me to be hungry for Him.
Deuteronomy 8:2-3 says “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
And here is what makes this beautiful. God doesn’t do this as punishment. Just a few verses after this in 8:10 it says, “And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.”
He disciplines those He loves so that when He gives the blessing (which He will), they will be ready to receive it with eager, grateful hands.