Below the Surface of the Wilderness

By The Venerable Max Woolaver 

In the nighttime when you are searching for answers, Yahweh comes to you. When you stretch out your arms and offer up broken phrases of liturgy and Scripture, Yahweh comes to you. When your heart is ensnared in anxieties, Yahweh comes to you. When you offer up the cries of your heart, soul, mind and body in words you would never dare to speak to anyone or when there is no one else to whom to speak them, God comes to you.  

When an entire people in the wilderness longed to be back home where the devil they knew was better than the devil they did not know, Yahweh came to them. When an entire people stretched out their arms in prayer and complaint, when they offered broken phrases of liturgy or Scripture, Yahweh came to them. When an entire wilderness people pleaded in words only known to people who have trials in common, Yahweh spoke to them.  

We too are journeying through a wilderness of shared trials.  

Yahweh spoke to the people of Israel and Yahweh is speaking to us. 

Our Anglican Community of Faith, journeying through COVID-19, is walking across the surface of a wilderness. We have read that after a long and troubled, restless, anxious night, “when the layer of dew had lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine, flaky substance, as fine as the frost on the ground.” This is the manna which fed the Israelites in the wilderness.  

There is also manna for us on the surface of this coronavirus wilderness.  

It feels providential to have been reading Thomas Merton’s journals these past months. Thomas Merton was an American monk, and is an essential soul to come to know. As long as people seek the face of God, Thomas Merton will be read.  

It also feels providential to read Thomas Merton quoting Karl Barth: “Everyone who has to contend with unbelief should be advised that he ought not to take his own unbelief too seriously. Only faith is to be taken seriously, and if we have faith as a grain of mustard seed, that suffices for the devil to have lost his game.” Merton himself goes on to write: “the devil and our nature try to persuade us that before we can begin to believe we must be perfect in everything. Faith is not important as it is ‘in us.’ Our faith is ‘in God,’ and with even a very little of it, God is in us.” 

This tells me that the manna we seek is within us. The manna you seek is within you. The manna you seek is the Living Christ—the one who named himself “The Bread of Life.” The Christ is Living Manna. 

We no longer need to restlessly scan the surface of the wilderness. We are called instead to enter into the depths of our own being to the place of God’s indwelling … through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ.