What Is It?

leaves-4673997_1920 (1)[This is a post I wrote for RevGalBlogPals. It appears in this week’s edition of the e-Reader.]

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone.

These words from a Joni Mitchell song (Big Yellow Taxi) capture my attention every time I hear them sung. Perhaps it’s the contrast of the gentle, lilting melody with the picture of loss and regret painted by the words.

In this time of our extended response to the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps this could be one of our theme songs as well. We look back at precious times that we didn’t fully appreciate: visits with elderly saints in our congregations, coffee or a cocktail with friends, leisurely shopping at a farmers market, placing a bit of bread or a sip of wine in the outstretched hand of a fellow sinner and assuring them that they are loved and forgiven.

The people of Israel could have been singing those lyrics as they complained bitterly about conditions in the desert. They grew nostalgic about the big pots full of meat simmering over an open fire and the fresh-baked bread that could be used to mop up every last drop of the savory stew.

After hearing their complaints, Moses relayed God’s promise that thy would have meat that evening and bread in the morning. The meat showed up right on schedule; quail covered their encampment. Imagine the feast! Those fleshpots in Egypt had nothing on this dinner of quail, all they could eat. They could hardly wait for the bread that God would provide in the morning.

When they woke up and looked around, though, there was no bread. Nothing that could be toasted over a flame or given to a teething infant to chew on. All they saw was something that looked like frost, even though the weather was all wrong for frost. They were so perplexed that they actually named the white flaky stuff with a question: What is it?

We all have a vision of how we expect our lives to unfold. We think we know how God ought to respond to our prayers. We spend our energy calibrating how we can simulate the in-person worship services that we carry in our memories. Sometimes we get so fixed on our ideas of what would be good for us that we miss what God is actually doing. In our urgency to recreate pre-pandemic worship, perhaps we miss the unexpected blessings hidden in our new forms of worship. We get so busy looking for just one kind of bread that we completely miss the sweet coriander and honey manna that is all around us.

We confess, Lord, that we often don’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone. Our lives get so crowded with other things that we don’t even notice the signs of your presence. Open our eyes, open our minds, open our hearts, to see your love and care all around us. 


Published by

Barbara Bruneau

Barbara Bruneau is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She is semi-retired, having previously served congregations in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Barbara enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and weaving. She shares her home with cats named Abigail and Bijou.

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