The Way of Manna

My eldest son loves blackberries.  They have been his favorite food since he was old enough to pick them himself.  Even when he was quite young he was not deterred by the thorns, which can be vicious on the wild plants.  We would go out on long blackberry hunts, buckets tied around our waists, wading through brush and poison ivy to find these tasty treats.  When we would come upon a gold mine, I would start picking and he would start eating.  “One for me, and one for you,” he would say, gently putting a berry in my mouth.  In those moments, I wondered, why is he being so generous?  Its been hard work getting here, we’re sweaty and the baby on my back is crying.  Why is he not hording his favorite food?

In the story of Exodus, God’s people find themselves in the desert with nothing to eat.  They are hungry, tired, and it is not hard to imagine a lot of babies crying.  They complain to Moses and God responds with a gift–manna.  God rains bread down from heaven, providing food for God’s people for their entire sojourn through the desert.  But, there are a few rules that go along with this free meal–they can’t horde!  “No one is to keep any of it until morning,” Moses says.  And those who do not obey this simple rule, will find it full of maggots in the morning.  Manna has not shelf-life, it requires full trust in God’s provision, every single day.  Of course there is one exception.  On the Sabbath, God’s holy day of rest, manna is miraculously preserved from the day before.

The Exodus story teaches us what Ellen Davis calls “the art of sufficiency.”  As she puts it, “We come to see the beauty of enough and actually prize it over ‘too much.'”  In our society, we are encouraged to want more, to spurn God’s gift of enough, to the extent that we are using resources faster than any other generation before us.  How can we train ourselves to see food as manna, a gift from God, and remember that there is enough, if only we do not horde?  I think I’ve learned a lesson from a child, who is in total wonder at found food.  This fall we moved to the mountain of North Carolina and there is a Chinese Chestnut tree in our yard.  These nuts are covered in a husk that is totally covered with very sharp spines.  Yet again, undeterred by the thorns, my son was determined to get at the delicious, crispy nuts inside.  After hours of work, he would bring them into us, and divide them evenly among us. He had learned the Way of Manna–when we see food as a gift, there is no reason not to share it.  There is always enough to go around.

FolkPsalm is currently working on a cd/booklet entitled The Way of Manna and I am indebted to Charles Pettee for this title.  To learn more about our band and our current project visit