The Bible is full of real people learning lessons about life and how to live it well. One such story in Exodus 16 recounts the release of the Hebrew people from a life of slavery in Egypt. They had experienced God’s miraculous deliverance and were on their way to the Promise Land. However, millions of people traveling through the wilderness required a bit of food and when hunger was upon them, they began to complain. God in His wisdom and mercy came to their rescue with a His bread from heaven called manna. So what’s the big deal about manna and what can we learn from God’s instruction concerning it?
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.” Exodus 16: 4-5
And Moses said, “Let no one leave any of it till morning.” Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. Exodus 16:19-21
So they gathered it every morning, every man according to his need. And when the sun became hot, it melted. Exodus 16:21
Fifteen years ago this week – well, February 3rd to be exact, something very significant happened in the Smith household. I think you might recall this as an occasion to remember as well, an occasion that has since changed the course of history or at least NFL history. Think back with me to Sunday, February 3, 2002 – anything significant going on? Aww yes, I knew you would remember! It was Super Bowl Sunday, with the highly favored St. Louis Rams taking on the New England Patriots. If you know me, you must be scratching your head thinking – how come Tracy has this date in her memory – she’s not a big sports enthusiast? Well, this date will forever be etched in my mind because it was the day our son was born! Yes, I did watch the game, in between contractions! After Chad and I walked around the neighborhood during half time and the game was finally over I said, “It’s time to go!!” Then at 10:48 pm, little red headed, blue-eyed Dylan Nathaniel was born at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton.
Now let’s back up a few months to September 2001. We can all remember this time frame, when our country was attacked on September 11th. I was about 5 months pregnant, at home with Jessica and Colin, when I heard the news of the attacks. The Marine base where we lived went on lock down; all was sober and unusually quiet. It was as if we’d lost our breath and were waiting to take the next one only if we could be certain our country was safe. Everything changed that day. Our country was sober as well; we saw one example of this in the area of sports. Traditionally, Super Bowl Sunday has been played the last Sunday in January. However, when the attacks happened on our native soil – the normal routines of life came to a halt even for the NFL and the Super Bowl was rescheduled a week later.
So, this is how Dylan became known as our Super Bowl baby . . . he was born on Super Bowl Sunday 2002, a rescheduled game due to the events on September 11th.
Soon after 9/11, President George Bush addressed Congress and I remember specifically him introducing a woman named Lisa Beamer during the service and having her stand. She was the wife of Todd Beamer, hero/victim of United Flight 93 that crashed into a Pennsylvania field. What was so significant about this introduction was that Lisa Beamer was pregnant – 5 months pregnant – just like me! It was as if we were kindred spirits. I felt her loss very personally and I just couldn’t imagine how she could stand in front of Congress and the world with such grace and composure knowing she would give birth to this child without her husband. I was undone.
The next Sunday, I met with a group of women with whom I helped facilitate a women’s Bible study. We were studying about Moses and the exodus of the children of Israel from the hands of Egypt. We were discussing the manna that God had provided every morning for his children to eat while traveling to the Promise Land when I began to break down over the horrific events of the past week. I began to say how I just couldn’t understand how Lisa Beamer could stand so strong after such tragedy had hit our nation and her world personally. After allowing my say, our pastor’s wife looked at me and said, “She stood strong because she’d gathered her manna.” Did you catch that? She stood STRONG because she’d gathered her MANNA!! I will never forget those words of wisdom my friend spoke into my life that morning. Every September 11th, every Super Bowl Sunday, I think of them! I must gather my manna! Every day, every morning – today’s manna won’t last for tomorrow’s unknowns. I must make gathering the bread a life a priority for today! Lessons learned, lessons rehearsed, lessons deepened by a life of the unexpected.
Many of you know real sorrow such as Lisa experienced; the loss of a father, a precious baby, a tiny 11-week old life. The diagnosis of a tumor, the loss of your vision or debilitating headaches. Liberty High School just lost one of their own to suicide and many of our young people knew him and considered him their friend. Loss, pain, sickness, persecution, politics - we live a life of the unexpected – but nothing is a surprise to God. He knows what our day will bring. And He knows we need our manna, our daily sitting in His presence reading His Word, communicating with Him through prayer, being still for a moment to listen. He knows how much to give, what measure we need to make it through and finish the race. Lessons from manna are true – they were true for the Hebrews, true for Lisa and they are true for you and me. Trust Him to know what you will need and be encouraged to never miss a morning of gathering your manna.