Food in Their Mouths, Fear in Their Hearts

Have you ever felt like you wanted or needed to make a change, but the path of unknowns seemed too daunting, too unknown, too scary? What scares you the most? I have found myself wondering at times, what if people are disappointed in me along the way? What if things don’t go the way I hope and everything I’ve known falls apart? What if I jump off this cliff and God doesn’t catch me in the process?

I stood in the back of our Cru weekly meeting as the band played the song Oceans (Where Feet May Fail). Hot tears streamed down my cheeks. “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders… You’ve never failed me and you won’t stop now.”

Let me back up. In March, my husband and I decided that it was time to make a change, to leave all of what we’ve known for 17 years working with college students and begin a neighboring ministry. And it was scary. Very, very scary. When I went into ministry in the first place, I was 21 years old and single. It was a step of faith for sure, but there weren’t 4 little mouths to feed if people didn’t “get” the vision. No bills to pay. Just me and God. The stakes felt higher now.

On Good Friday (which I now refer to not-so-fondly as “Black Friday”), I awoke in the middle of the night with a paralyzing fear. Waves of condemnation came over me. “What are we doing?! We’ve left our job with nothing officially worked out; our kids are going to starve. What are we even good at? We should just leave ministry altogether- there’s no future for us.” This lasted into “Holy Saturday”- which I’ve also renamed “Inconsolable Saturday,” the day that harkens back to when grief and despair swept in with unrestraint, all hope was lost and the darkness had seemingly prevailed. It was a day of the grave and no one knew Sunday was coming. It was a literal picture of what I felt all weekend. I heard whispers in the dark that our future was in that tomb.

Though the intensity of Black Friday subsided, the stress of all the unknowns continued. I remember pulling my car out of the driveway and heading toward the airport for a Mom’s Conference for a few days during it all and feeling like a puddle (hard to explain how you could literally feel like a puddle) or like a pile of yarn all unspun. Despite tearful goodbyes from my kids and a sentimental hug from husband, this depleted puddle of a mom almost peeled my tires and could not get out fast enough. Lord, help. 

On my flight, I listened to a sermon that primed the pump of my heart. In it, our pastor referenced Psalm 77:19: “Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.” I thought about this passage the next day as we were given a free afternoon and I jetted to the pool. And not just any pool- the pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge, a place of God’s gracious provision in the past. We weren’t staying there, but we would all be eating dinner at Boma, their lavish African buffet restaurant.

AKL pool.png

I turned to Psalm 77 & 78 and read more of the psalmist’s words:

“Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and mediate on your mighty deeds.”

And he goes on to recount these wonders. Despite the peoples’ unbelief, God was faithful.

“They forgot his works and the wonders that he had shown them… He divided the sea and let them pass through it, and made the waters stand like a heap. In the daytime he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a fiery light. He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep. He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers. Yet they sinned still more against him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert. They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness? He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people?‘” (vv 11, 13-20)

Here God is splitting rocks in the wilderness to give them water and yet “they did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power” (v 22). They were still afraid they’d starve.

“Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. Man ate the bread of angels; he sent them food in abundance… He rained meat on them like dust, winged birds like sand of the seas; he let them fall in the midst of their camp, all around their dwellings. And they ate and were filled, for he gave them what they craved. But before they had satisfied their craving, while the food was still in their mouths, the anger of God rose against them, and he killed the strongest of them and laid low the young men of Israel. In spite of all this, they still sinned; despite his wonders, they did not believe” (vv 23-32).

The irony was painful. Here I was, sitting at the pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge about to head to an absurdly bountiful buffet and GORGE MYSELF with lamb stew and slow roasted pork ribs and South African curried lobster and smoked salmon and spice-crusted beef sirloin and curried soups and fresh fruit and papaya salad and plantain crips and Kenyan coffee tarts and bread pudding and….

And…. I’m worried I’m going to starve.

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boma food
African Buffet at Boma restaurant. Images from wdwmagic.com

I had seen God’s faithful provision over the years, his mighty deeds and lavish commitment to me. I had seen him spread a table in the wilderness. And here I was, the food still in my mouth (insert picture of me with my fat pants on going back for thirds and fourths of coconut rice and zebra domes)… and I still didn’t believe. I was terrified the grace would run out and I’d have to fend for myself going forward.

So, I began to journal. I wrote out every instance of God’s faithfulness I could remember- big and small- since childhood. I confessed my doubts and fears and praised God for the times He had split open rocks for drink and rained down bread from heaven. I was amazed; God’s generosity and kindness and faithfulness had not only shown up in those few times that had easily come to mind over the years, but were like voices that had sung throughout my whole life. I asked Him to help me believe that He would take care of us moving forward. That He would confirm our calling and provide a way to do it.

Three months later, I can say that He has done both of those things.

Lord, atune my ears to hear the chorus of your faithfulness and believe your goodness, even when I hear whispers from the tomb. Though feet may fail and fear surrounds me,
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now.

 

 

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