By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
In our Hebrew scripture reading (Exodus 17:1-7), we find our ancient desert dwelling cousins doing what they did best … complaining. In fact, this passage is the fourth such episode of complaining while the Israelites were wandering the desert after fleeing captivity in Egypt.
They’ve got a pretty good reason to start complaining, though, because the place where they’re staying in this passage has no water. In our first world problems, having our water cut off is simply a minor inconvenience. We can run down to the store for bottled water to make our coffee or wash our hair. For these Hebrew people wandering in the desert, running out of water was a matter of life or death. So, understandably, they complain and accuse Moses of taking them out into the wilderness to die.
Moses, as a practical matter, gives the people the physical water they need to survive, but they miss the larger lesson. What God is attempting to teach the Israelites in their desert wandering is the lesson we still need to learn today: Nothing outside of ourselves can really save us. Yes, we need water to survive, but outside of basic survival needs like water, food and shelter – everything we need to thrive in this world is already within us.
What the Holy is trying to teach them, and us, is something called the “law of circulation,” which states that you can only give what you have, you can only keep what you give and you can only sustain what you’re willing to receive. Think of this law as breathing … when we breath, it’s not two breaths, one in and one out – instead it’s one breath, a continuous circle of in and out.
Giving and receiving is like this – a continuous circle where we take in what we’re given, transform it, and put it back out into the world. When we breathe in oxygen, we turn it into carbon dioxide which makes the plants grow.
The plants turn our waste into life giving oxygen. This is the law of circulation … we are all connected, and when we stop giving – even when we stop receiving – we break the cycle of life.
You can’t go around only breathing out – or giving – just as you can’t survive just breathing in – or receiving. We must continuously be doing both – giving and receiving. But, that law also turns on this idea – nothing outside of yourself can be the source of your security. Instead, we must turn inward, our very soul, to discover the life-giving water — that free floating air of abundance — that the Holy promises us.
But, we, like our ancient cousins, don’t get it. Instead, we complain and look to our leaders and others to get what we think we lack. “Somebody bring me some water!” we shout as the stuff of life already flows in, through and around us, unnoticed, in every moment.
What God is trying to do for all of us who wander in this wilderness is move us from our fear and doubt into a new, fertile promised land where we can see and know abundance in each moment. Will we spend the journey complaining, or will we trust that even in times where we perceive there to be lack, there is water abundant in every rock and tree, there is abundance in every breath and every flower?
We can miss the promised land of abundance if we keep insisting that the world give us exactly what we want … because in the promised land we only get what we give … and when we understand the law of circulation … that’s when we’ll find that place that overflows with milk and honey.