Quietly tucked in between miraculous stories of the Lord bringing Israel into the Promised Land are a few verses about the transition as they moved in. I was struck by these:
The very next day they began to eat unleavened bread and roasted grain harvested from the land. No manna appeared on the day they first ate from the crops of the land, and it was never seen again. So from that time on the Israelites ate from the crops of Canaan. Joshua 5:11,12
I’m sure Israel was delighted to not be eating manna anymore at this point, after exhausting every Pinterest recipe they could find for it and long since growing bored with the taste. I can’t even imagine how many times their kids asked, “Manna again?” [Of course, we know from the Biblical account that the adults were asking that, too.]
But as of that day, that season was done. Manna was forever behind them. Now they not only heard about the land flowing with milk and honey, they enjoyed the produce first hand. They could see and taste and smell how good the land the Lord had brought them was. It would be silly to pine for manna when they had Trader Joe’s right there! [mmm…cookie butter] Changing the food they ate was just one of many signs that their lives would never be the same. This was huge!
As I reflect on this change, I wonder whether there was also sadness and fear. As one season ends, even if it was full of drawbacks, I feel a lump of regret. I think thoughts like, “I’m never going to see Jesus work in this way again” or “I hated that, but God showed up over and over again. What if it’s not the same?” Even as I slowly cull my closet of clothes that no longer fit, I feel a twinge of sadness as I think of how I felt in different outfits and the good times I had wearing them. They’re just clothes, but letting go is hard for me.
Sometimes, I need to remind myself that seasons are cyclical. Many things do return after a season. Friendships are rekindled. Sleep goes back to normal as my son grows. My husband and I reconnect after a busy time pulls us apart. In those cases, I need to be reminded, “It’ll be okay” and have faith that this, too, shall pass.
However, this passage tells me that sometimes, I just need to move into the new season. Not everything goes back to the way it was. Some friendships don’t come back, no matter how deep they were in the past. Ministries and groups that were amazing for a season change over time until they are unrecognizable. Even my wonderful son will never be the sweet infant he was again. [I can’t tell you how many tears I shed folding up and storing the first batch of clothes he outgrew. You just can’t prepare for some things!] It’s so easy for me to look at what was and try to hold on with all my might, as if I could just will things to stop changing.
But there’s a problem with that.
If I’m spending my time and energy looking back over my shoulder, I will miss today’s blessings. I won’t enjoy the new work God is doing. I won’t experience Jesus’ presence in my life right now. It’s good to remember the ways Jesus showed up in my life in the past, but I can’t live in the past. God is still at work and I’d hate to miss it because I was looking in the wrong direction.
How do we know the difference between something that will come back and something that never will? We don’t. At least, I don’t. I haven’t figured that out yet. The best way I’ve learned to cope is to pray for eyes to see and ears to hear today and pay attention. One thing I do know for sure: God’s not hiding. His presence is readily apparent when I slow down and pay attention in any season.
I pray that I’ll be present in the time and place where I am, knowing that Jesus is still working even if it looks new in a new season. He’s still God and he’s still good. I don’t have to fear that his work is only in the past. Faith tells me, “It’ll be okay. The best is yet to come.”