Gary and I both have an app on our phones that we enjoy playing called Wordscapes – it’s a game of mini crossword puzzles. For each play, you’re given six or seven letters to create words, different combinations of these same six or seven letters. You fill in the crossword grid with the various words. Gary and I have talked about how we get stuck – we stare at the letters and can’t figure out the unique word needed to complete the grid. But, if we leave the game for a little while, and go back to it later, we almost immediately see that last word. Why was it that the word was right in front of us when we were playing the game earlier, but we didn’t see it?
We encounter this dilemma in many ways in our lives. Romantic comedies often revolve around this premise. I’m remembering the movie Made of Honor with Patrick Dempsey. He and the co-star have been best friends since college, but never dated. Now she is engaged to be married and has asked him to be her maid of honor. While he is in the comedic throes of learning all about wedding planning and dealing with the female bridesmaids, who think he is woefully unprepared to be planning anything that has to do with this wedding, he realizes, after all these years, that he is in love with his dear friend who is about to marry another man. And, because this is a romantic comedy, I will leave it up to you to figure out how the movie ends. Let’s just say…it was right in front of him all along.
And, so it was, with the Israelites…right in front of them. They have had enough. Yes, they are free from the clutches of the mighty Pharaoh. But, now, they have been wandering in the wilderness for six weeks and they are tired and they are hungry and they are complaining. The Lord hears them and tells Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven.” Moses receives these saving words firsthand, straight from God. Moses tells his brother, Aaron, to gather the people together and tell them to trust in the Lord; the Lord understands their needs. While they are all gathered, they look out at the wilderness and see with their own eyes the glory of the Lord. The Lord tells Moses to tell the people gathered that that very evening, the Lord will provide meat to eat, and in the morning, the Lord will provide their fill of bread. Sure enough, what happens? That evening, God gives the Israelites meat to eat, an abundance of quails. In the morning, covering the ground is a flaky substance. Just the day before, the people saw with their own eyes the glory of God. And, they were given meat to eat as promised. Yet, in the morning, even with a promise fulfilled and knowing God’s other promise for their fill of bread, they see the flaky substance and ask, “What is it?” God is providing, right in front of them. Yet, they don’t see it – such an enduring human trait for all of us.
Scripture is here to remind us to open ourselves to that which is right in front of us – God’s love which alleviates heartache, inspires endurance, focuses us outward; emanates joy. John tells us through the Gospel: “…work for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” What is this food that Jesus gives us? What is right in front of us? Ephesians helps us out, urging us to live “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” – exactly what Jesus teaches us.
We are human and life is hard. Health issues, relationship issues, career challenges, public policy differences can wear us down. Sometimes, we lose patience, we let go of bearing with one another in love. Sometimes, it is a whole lot easier to act out, to find fault randomly than to address the unease, the discomfort, the hurt inside ourselves. We don’t always see how unrelated, unresolved issues in our lives are influencing how we are responding in the moment to some frustration. This human condition is precisely why we need the bread of life. We do need to remind ourselves about this food right in front of us. We need the love that Jesus embodies, the love that sustains all and nurtures all, and endures all – the love ever-present from Jesus and ever possible through one another. This love is not a sentiment, but a commitment to the common good. Loving heals our soul. It’s a leap of faith when we are hurting, but loving heals our soul, while healing others.
Whenever we are ready to act out, let’s take a deep breath and call on Jesus’ sacrificial love. I was so saddened this week to see the backlash from Simone Biles pulling out of Olympic competition. She might be the most well-known of all of our Olympic athletes this summer. The weight of the world was on her shoulders to win gold. She pulled out for mental health reasons. She is experiencing a disconnect between her mind and her body when she performs, which, of course, is physically dangerous. Many people rallied around her this week, commending her for her bravery in prioritizing her mental and physical health. But, too many people lashed out against her. I don’t know why. Perhaps, they are disappointed they won’t see her perform. Perhaps, they are disappointed in a lower medal count for the U.S. Perhaps, they feel some resentment because they wanted to bow out of a difficult situation in their lives, but they didn’t, and there were consequences. I don’t know the reasons. But, I do know disappointment in my life. I experience it; I get it. When we are hurting, let’s take a deep breath and ask ourselves what is achieved by deriding a fellow human being? What is achieved? Perhaps we experience some momentary relief from our own hurt and disappointment, but we will not experience lasting relief, only lingering pain from some unrelated, unresolved issue.
Let’s take a deep breath and allow Jesus’ love to heal our soul. We know Jesus’ love is eternal – always right in front of us. I love the way the great singer songwriter, Carole King (think One Fine Day, I Feel the Earth Move, Where You Lead ), I love the way Carole King puts this fact of life to words in her song Right Here All Along. She sings, “In your eyes I see the reason; in your smile I see the road that takes me home; in my heart I know the answer; all the things I looked so hard to find were right here all along.” Amen.