I was 19 years old when I decided to read through the Bible, cover to cover.
I’d heard stories about the God on those tissue-paper thin pages my whole life – but then, I was ready to meet him for myself.
So every morning I’d wake up, make my way to the coffee pot, and page through the Old Testament in my tiny dorm room kitchen. At first, I wasn’t too stoked on the idea: I was expecting a 1,000 item rule list or back to back tales of nations at war. So I was pretty surprised to find myself staying up late into the night, devouring what turned out to be an epic love story.
With bleary eyes and bed head, I camped out in the wilderness of those ancient books for weeks. It didn’t take long for patterns to form and themes to emerge:
When God’s people turned their backs on him and deliberately disobeyed, he ran towards them in love. And every time it happened, he’d run further and faster.
When they worshipped other gods, their God gifted them with a new, better way to live.
When they were lost and homeless and hungry in the wilderness, he made them into a nation. Even in the middle of a desert, they built altars, made sacrifices and reveled in his faithfulness.
At 19 (and 23), I needed to see a God like this: wild with mercy and recklessly grace-filled. I couldn’t understand it (they just keep messing up and he just keeps taking them back?) – and I couldn’t stop craving it. I remember walking back to my dorm one afternoon during that year long journey into the Scriptures, lighter on my feet than I had been in so long, and I thought, “Oh no. I think I’m turning into one of those people who’s obsessed with Jesus.”
And it was true. I caught a glimpse of him in the same God who led his people out of captivity, called them his very own, and loved, loved, loved them. I couldn’t get enough.
And as I read further into the wilderness with them, I caught a glimpse of myself, too. I connected with those really lost, deeply beloved people. And I guess they’re sort of family now.
What is it?
During one chapter in the story – in Exodus if you want to dig in – the people of Israel find themselves in limbo: they’re out of the chains of slavery, out of the clutches of the Egyptian Pharaoh, and they’re waiting to enter into a land God has set aside just for them – the Promised Land. It would be beautiful – filled every good thing they’d need to flourish.
But until they reach it, they’re all sweating it out in the wilderness – a barren desert on the far side of the Red Sea. They’re lost. They’ve only got what they’ve carried with them as they fled by night out of Egypt.
This part of the tale gets pretty bleak. But really, they didn’t need much more than what they had on their backs.
When they got hungry, God rained down bread from heaven every day. They called it manna – which, in Hebrew, literally means “what is it?” This mysterious meal is what kept them alive. They’d never tasted before, but it sustained them for the journey.
They feasted on the unknown provision that God was happy to pour out for them in perfect measure to their need – right in the moment they needed. When they ran out at the end of the day, they had to trust that God would show up and do the same thing again tomorrow.
This is what it meant to be both lost and beloved:
Not certain of what was ahead, not quite sure about how their needs would be met tomorrow, but surrendered to the certainty of God’s faithfulness and compassion.
And that’s where I find myself in their story now.
In my move to Florida (not to mention my month long pit-stop in Indonesia & California) I’ve left behind everything that was dear and familiar and comfortable. But God has been parting seas for me and guiding me with pillars of light. It feels like I’ve lost my sense of home – sometimes even my sense of self. But he’s been giving me the basics to survive literally day-by-day.
But can I be honest with you? Not a single day of this wild freefall into deeper trust has been easy or pretty. I’ve doubted that God would show up when I needed him to. I doubted that his grace was enough for all of my shit. I’ve never felt more lost in a new city. I’ve never felt more uncertain of myself or what I’m doing with my life.
But even in my lostness, all of heaven and earth have conspired to shout at me that I AM BELOVED by God.
Beyond belief. Beyond imagination. So far beyond what I deserve.
And because I am so deeply loved – I know that there’s an end to the wilderness (but I can see that the stars are brighter out here). And I know this desert is not my home: there’s an end in sight and a good God leading me to it.
In the middle of my wandering, I’m finding little gifts of love that God has left along my way. But I had to open my eyes to see them. And every day, I’m looking up and remembering his faithfulness. I’m opening my hands to receive his daily bread – and I’m going to eat the mystery.