I have a favorite pair of athletic shoes. They are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn and they are the perfect neutral shade with a little bit of accent color to satisfy my fashion sensibilities. After a couple of years of wear, the rubber soles began to separate. I tried all kinds of adhesives from Elmer’s to Gorilla Glue to get them to stick back together. Those products worked temporarily. It wasn’t long before the soles were once again unglued. They can’t be made right again. The damage was permanent.
Those shoes are still in my closet because I can’t bring myself to throw them away. I suppose I could wear them if I was willing to tolerate the soles slapping my heels on every step. There’s nothing like permanent damage to help you see more clearly just how temporary things in this life are.
My husband has a friend whose hobby is beekeeping. He has shared some of his beekeeping knowledge and one interesting fact that I learned recently is that honey doesn’t spoil. I’m so neurotic about checking expiration dates or best before dates on grocery store products that I didn’t believe it when I first heard it. I did a little research and discovered he was right. Honey will last forever. That is, provided you leave it on the shelf and don’t eat it.
Imagine that. In our temporary, disposable, drive through, express lane, modern convenience lives, there really is something that will last.
The Israelites wandering in the wilderness knew about temporary. They also knew a little bit about honey. For forty years they lived in temporary housing and ate temporary food. They were not always happy about it either. They grumbled about their lack of food and God responded, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day” (Exodus 16:4). They got manna, with instructions. They were told to gather only enough for one day at a time. If they gathered more than they needed for one day, it spoiled.
Talk about temporary. The manna was enough to sustain them day by day but it wasn’t intended to satisfy them completely. They had been promised a land of their own flowing with milk and honey. They had somewhere else to go with something better in store for them there. If God had given them milk and honey in Camp Wilderness, they likely would have erected an altar to that sweet spot and become permanent residents there instead of 40-year transients. They never would have made it to the Promised Land.
Manna spoiled after one day. They were headed to a place that was dripping with honey, a sustenance that lasts forever. To be left wanting is motivation to press on. To actually press on through the temporary circumstances that cause you to grumble can bring permanent, lasting rewards.
In Deuteronomy 29:5, the forty year wilderness adventure is coming to a close and the Israelites are almost ready to step foot in the Promised Land. Moses is urging them to honor God, the one who sustained them with temporary manna and brought them to this place where they will eat honey that doesn’t spoil. He reminds them of the proof of God’s faithfulness and provision: during those forty years, their sandals never wore out.
It took me months, maybe even a year, of looking at new athletic shoes to find a replacement for my old favorites. It actually took buying a couple of pairs to finally find a decent substitute and even then I still felt like I was settling. I grumbled about it. My old favorites were temporary. My new ones will be too. My proof of God’s faithfulness will not be that my shoes don’t wear out. It is that Jesus paved the way for that narrow path to my promised land. All I need to do is follow His footsteps. I know I have somewhere else to go and something else better for me waiting there. In the meantime, it’s biscuits and honey for me.
This article was originally posted September 7, 2014 on The Press and Standard's website: