Longing for Egypt in the COVID Desert

I Suddenly Found Myself Nostalgic for a Time I Never Even Lived Through

Guest Contributor / 9.22.20

Thankful for this post from Jane Grizzle:

Yesterday, NPR ran a story about the shortage of Ball canning goods, namely lids. Apparently everyone who chose gardening as their pandemic drug of choice is now worried about what to do with the bushels of tomatoes and cucumbers overtaking their yards. And Ball, surprised like the rest of us by this odd return to home economics, did not produce enough canning lids. The reporter then said this was not the first time such a shortage had occurred. In 1975, President Ford encouraged Americans to grow their own fruits and vegetables to help with rising food prices, but due to a shortage of tin, Ball could not produce enough lids to meet the increased demand. Americans were outraged. They wrote to their senators and called the White House. There were hearings about the Ball Canning Crisis.

I suddenly found myself nostalgic for a time I never even lived through. It was charming to think about an American populace calling their representatives and demanding investigations into jar lids. If only that was the reason I had contacted my senators this week.

This past Sunday, the church I (virtually) attend read Exodus 16, the story of God providing manna for the Israelites for forty years in the desert. I texted a friend to say it felt a little on the nose. These are people who don’t know what they’re doing, following a guy who has little experience. They do not know what the next day or even hour will hold. These are people who are scared and worried and following a pillar of smoke during the day and pillar of fire by night. They are hungry and tired and thirsty. Like them, we are wandering in a wilderness with seemingly little direction or surety. And like the Israelites, I’d happily go back to Egypt. At least they had meat there.

My friends and family have pointed out this similarity before. I have a tendency to romanticize the past, preferring the known and the okay (or let’s be honest, the known and the just bad) over any sort of uncertainty. Trusting in a God who will provide even though we cannot yet see how — that is hard. I would just like to see the plans, even a rough outline. I would rather do something, even if it is walking backwards than wait on God’s provision any day. 2019, with its mask free indoor activity with other people, looks pretty good to me.

I have little excuse for my longings to go back. I have seen God work the worst things I could imagine into good. I know that this journey through the wilderness, this pandemic, unrest, and political season does not mean God has abandoned us. But if you look at my daily life, I have to be honest: I would happily go back to Egypt. I don’t know how 2020 will end, and I would happily trade all of 2020 for the ease of 2019. And let’s be clear — 2019 was not a great year for me. I moved internationally with three children and a dog, endured health problems, and struggled to find my way.

Despite the proof of my own past, at my core, I struggle to believe God will do it again. Will he part the sea when he’s just delivered us from Egypt? Will he overcome our hunger and thirst when he’s just parted the Sea? I expect God to speak like I do to my children, “I just made you a meal and you’re hungry again?!?” “I just got you dressed but now you need to change?” But He is not like that. He hears our whining and grumbling and still intervenes on our behalf. He listened to the Israelites and, rather than rail against them with all that he has done before (“I brought you out of slavery!”), he gives them what they need. He provides for his children despite our total and complete lack of faith in Him.

I have every reason to believe that the God who has delivered us from darkness, both my own personal darkness and our corporate sin, is still here, that he is making a way where there is no way, but there are still many days I would give almost anything to eat meat by a campfire in 2019. Thank God he continues to provide for us despite our attitudes, gives us what we need when we need it, and gives us faith to believe he will do it again. And again. And again.