Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.”
Please read the entirety of Exodus 16
During my pregnancy with Sam, the doctors prepared me for the fact that he may never breast feed because of his heart condition. I prepared myself to pump and feed him bottles, grateful to have a baby to feed at all while quietly mourning a bonding experience I had so looked forward to with each of my babies. Four days after his birth, to my surprise, his doctors turned to me in rounds and asked me if I would be willing to try to nurse him. Willing? Tears sprang to my eyes at this unexpected gift. To everyone’s shock and joy, Sam nursed like a champ. I sat in the rocking chair nursing our miracle baby/nursing savant and let the tears of gratitude roll over me.
A couple months later, I brought Sam in for one of his frequent heart check-ups at Children’s. I was tired. Wait; tired’s not the word. Bone-bleached fatigued:, working endless days to keep the house and laundry as sterile as possible for our vulnerable heart baby, while nursing him day and night and trying to keep a precocious, bored, and frustrated two year old off of his newborn brother and out of trouble. His cardiologist sighed: “Okay. Sam’s not gaining enough weight. I think it’s because he’s burning too many calories nursing. So what I want to do is have you pump, and we’ll fortify every bottle with a full serving of formula.”
Okay, I could do that. Just for a few months, right? I put on a brave face for the doc, agreed to the new feeding regiment, and headed on home. But somewhere between the sliding doors of Children’s exit and our car door, reality slapped me in the face: How in the world was I going to have time to do this? I had no back stock of frozen breast milk. I had, for the first time in my life, struggled to provide enough for Sam (due to a little bit of stress and a lot of work). And now, I had to go home and produce like a dairy cow every 2.5-3 hours, 8 times a day.
Pumping takes time, time I didn’t have. It was hard enough to nurse Sam while Abraham ran loose around the house. Now, I would have to double the time for every feeding: first pumping, then feeding Sam. Sam needed every last ounce of attention and touch and love I had to give him to stay healthy, not to mention every single probiotic my body could provide him. As I drove home through Seattle traffic, I formulated a plan: I would build a back-stock, some way some-how. I would pump like the dickens, get ahead of this problem, stock that freezer!
Only I couldn’t. Every feeding was always a little short of a full bottle. Or, I would be so tired I would knock a full bottle of just-pumped milk over, or Sam would throw a feeding up because of his meds. And I would have to start from scratch, usually after going hysterical.
I was going crazy as an overtime dairy cow. Those poor bovines! I developed a deep sympathy for them during my pumping-only days. And, then, one day while I was disciplining Abraham and pumping and holding a hungry, crying Sam in a messy house with tears streaming down my face, God broke through: this is how they felt in the wilderness gathering Manna and Quail. I physically stopped my milking frenzy and put my forehead to the dirty kitchen counter. OHHHHHHH.
I realized in that instant that I couldn’t do enough to keep Sam alive. I realized I couldn’t stock enough in the freezer, pump enough, work hard enough, to eliminate every germ that he was exposed to, to make his body grow. I realized that those mamas in the wilderness, who led their children out of a bad place but a place where at least their babies’ bellies would be filled, must have been as scared as I was. And I realized that a big part of the wilderness is shedding our silly idea that we can work hard enough, be smart enough, to stock pile enough to protect our families from the horrible realities of life.
Manna and Quail were a lesson–first and foremost–in submission. When we submit to a God who can provide all, and stop pretending we are God ourselves, we can stop chasing our own tails and rest in His provision. And it always comes. Maybe it isn’t what we want, but it is always enough. And I don’t know how Sam got enough breast milk (but he did!) or if that whole dairy cow experience was just a lesson for me to stop freaking out whenever I feel a lack (and I am!). But, there is nothing more frightening than my mother-heart’s panic over my children not being provided for. That panic is a trigger I need to get better at listening to: it’s my signal to put my head on the counter and pray, pray, pray.
I am still learning this lesson, one I think is necessary to live in the promised land. We’ll talk more about this next week, as I feel we’ve just scratched the surface. But I want to leave with you this thought: what if every lack brought us to our knees? What if we saw each physical need as a new place for God to fill us with more of Himself?
What if you are not in a time of stock-piling and saving and storing? What if you are in a season of growing up in your dependence on God? I know I am there, learning to look to heaven with each hunger pain. In the mean time, I will look to one Mother’s example of trusting God, namely One who didn’t even know where her baby would be born. Yet, God provided for her Son. And he provides for mine just the same.
“for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name . . . He has filled the hungry with good things . . . ” Luke 1:49, 53