Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a metaphor. Or a Bible story.
There’s a desert. Grumbling. (That would be me.) Perceived lack of food and water.
And, always, brown dust. The promise of a strong sun.
The sufferings of those around me. Those who make their way through the desert. Remembered Bible stories fuel their hope. Stories of manna in the desert. From a God who never abandons them. A God who provides unusual food. Water from an unlikely source.
Sometimes that source is people I know. People at a shelter that waits for them to arrive. Empty cots longing to caress them into sleep. Give them dreams beyond imaginations held in their homelands. Dreams that only come when a rock transforms into a pillow.
This God source has provided in other ways as well.
With provisions for times when it feels as though the desert takes too much. Too great a toll of flesh demanded for the promised freedom. Too great a toll on desperate travelers forced into a more desperate Juarez. Too great a toll on exhausted, hungry children arriving with abuelas, tίas and tίos. They are taken from the only family they know. Pulled away and placed in shelters far from the desert, in rural American countrysides, hidden from view.
The toll seems unforgivable. Unimaginable to us who remain in the desert, watching, bearing witness to the inhumanity.
“Where is God in this?” we ask.
Where is God in the long aridity? When it feels like provisions are lacking?
In asking the question, the answers come.
I begin to notice provisions for the journey. The gifts in the sand.
The tireless female attorneys, mothers themselves, crossing the port of entry daily. Checking on clients. Seeking those with hearings in unsympathetic El Paso courtrooms. Holding up in the heat, the long lines at the bridge. No matter how few asylum cases they will win. Unfaltering despite the odds.
Manna in the form of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. El Paso volunteers now prepare these sandwiches for migrants waiting in Mexico to be processed. The people are hungry.
And Mexican federal immigration officials do not have the provisions to feed so many before releasing these families to shelters. Or worse – the streets of Juarez. The migrants – and the Mexican agents – welcome PB&J manna with smiles.
Provisions of friendship. The gift of camaraderie – of soul friends committed to the refugee, to the hurting, to those fleeing enslavement, a life of extortion.
We come together, share food and drink. Sing songs of a world we know is possible. The gift of laughter lightens the burdens. Our common prayer rises to the “column of cloud” guiding our journey.
Provisions of expression, of expelling the grief. Lisa offers the gift of her therapist skills, a free-will offering to those of us “living on the cusp,” living in the midst of the atrocious effects of the pharaoh’s dictates. She desires to help us. Her provisions fall like manna from the sky, alighting on our souls so in need of nourishment.
This heart I’ve been given – this too is a gift, a “talent” I’ve been asked to magnify on the journey. Even though it sometimes feels like a curse. A weakness. A vulnerability that needs alteration.
Then Brother Lalo gifts me with the words of St. Paul: “It is when I am weak that I am strong.” He tells me this is what comes to him when he thinks of me.
His supportive words, another provision in this desert. A reminder of another Bible story. The weak will befuddle the strong.
Yes, I call these “provisions for the journey.” And I hear God ask, can you trust that you’ll be given what you need? Just for today? Can you trust that I’ll be with you again tomorrow? Even when night descends?