God delivered in a mighty way and the people quickly forgot. That’s the scene in Exodus 16 and that is the scene that plays out in my heart.
After years in slavery, God delivered His people from captivity in Egypt. With His mighty hand, He parted the waters of the Red Sea and His people passed to freedom on dry land. They saw a great miracle. No sooner than their feet hit the shore, they began to grumble.
“They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’” – Exodus 16:1-3
I shouldn’t be too harsh, the complaining wasn’t immediate. They waited a month and a half before they started grumbling. How could they forget so soon?
Just a few days before the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, I began to see a little bit of me in the story of the grumbling Israelites. It took me longer than a few months to get there, yet there I stood with my back to the Red Sea and my face toward the Promised Land complaining. Complaining about insurance costs. Complaining about tax. Complaining about potholes and red light cameras. Complaining about house maintenance. Complaining about the six or seven car windshields I have replaced in the recovery years. Stressing and straining. Not trusting … at least not fully. Not remembering … at least not fully.
It was easy at first. It was easy to remember and it was easy to trust to hand that protected us. God delivered us from the storm for a purpose and gave us a job. He brought us back to give the city of New Orleans a gigantic “bear hug” in His name. God brought us back to be the hands and feet of the gospel and witnesses of grace and forgiveness to our neighbors.
God sent armies of volunteers to work in our city and we joined them. It is as if the miracle continued for years. We got excited about our city again. We enjoyed the culture and the food. The Saints even won the Super Bowl. My family was so committed to the rebuilding efforts that we bought a house in 2008 (in a city that had flood just three years earlier). I still found joy in remembering all that God did.
Somewhere along the way – 2010 or 2011 – we stopped talking about Katrina. We had all moved on. We were over it. But when I stopped talking about Katrina, I lost an opportunity to talk about the goodness of God. The Katrina experience was not fun, but I have to acknowledge that God was good to His Church and He has been good to this city.
So I have a confession to make – I have been a grumbling complainer for the past few years and I want that to end. I thank God for the way He has cared for me, for my church family and for my seminary during the past 10 years. On this 10th anniversary, my face is still set toward the Promised Land, but the wilderness lies ahead. There will be big insurance bills, unfair taxation, pot holes, red light tickets, and busted windows. The mundane stuff of life happens even in New Orleans – the least mundane place I know. Life is tough, but I have seen a great miracle. I remember His deliverance. I know of His saving love.
It’s time to be grateful to God on this journey. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.