• Frosted Flakes, Vanilla Wafers, and Faith

  • By Susanna Fleming

  • Frosted Flakes, Vanilla Wafers, and Faith

    Having grown up as a pastor’s kid, it is perhaps no surprise that I have several vivid memories from Sunday School, most of which include a felt board Bible story lesson or watching an episode from VeggieTales. (Can we give a quick shout out the makers of VeggieTales for trying to trick us all into thinking vegetables are cool!? Almost had us fooled…)

    Of all of my Sunday School memories, however, one particular moment stands out to me. This is most likely because it included two of my favorite foods, which – no surprise here – aren’t vegetables.

    Call me simple, but you can’t get much more delicious than frosting covered carbohydrates drowning in milk with a side of straight-from-the-shelf, crunchy cookies. Enter: Frosted Flakes and Vanilla Wafers.

    As 15 hungry kids chowed down on our feast that Sunday morning, our teacher proceeded to tell us the story of the Israelites and the manna in Exodus 16. If you need a refresher, the story goes that the Israelites were wandering around in the desert without direction or food, and God provided both quail and bread from heaven, a.k.a. “manna” for them to eat.

    The bread appeared fresh every morning after the dew disappeared, and the Israelites were instructed to gather an amount proportional to the number of their households each day. They were told to take only as much as they needed for that day. On the sixth day of the week, however, they were instructed to gather a double portion of manna. Manna would not fall on the Sabbath Day, so their double portion would allow them to save some bread to enjoy on their day of rest.

    The Israelites were also warned that if they gathered a few days worth of manna at once, the excess would rot in their tents and accrue maggots (Can you spell G-R-O-S-S!?). And if they failed to gather a double portion of manna on the sixth day, they would go hungry on the Sabbath.

    Pretty basic instructions, right?

    That’s what I thought, too. As I gulped down the remainder of my frosting-flavored milk and bit into my cookie, I imagined how cool it would be to receive a fresh order of food every single day from heaven. Certainly the Israelites would be on their best behavior to follow instructions if they knew that God himself was playing chef for them!

    Except not every Israelite did follow instructions. Some gathered extra manna out of fear that they would go hungry. Others didn’t gather extra on the Sabbath because they got comfortable with their routine. Maggots, hunger, and a whole lot of life lessons ensued. Clearly, these Israelites needed to learn by experience that following God’s instructions is always the best way to go!

    Though I grasped the basic concepts of this story as a child, the weight of Exodus 16 has become deeply seared into my heart over the years – especially recently. I realize now that the key ingredient lacking for the Israelites who did not follow God’s instructions was FAITH. Though God was providing for them mightily, they struggled to let go of their scarcity mindsets. They struggled to be in step with God’s rhythm of grace. They ignored God’s strategy in favor of their own strategies.

    There were, however, some Israelites who followed the instructions. And rather than shaking our heads in disappointment at the first category of Israelites, I want to take a moment to recognize the Israelites who were faithful to gather the exact amount of manna that they were instructed to take home.

    If we really think about it, it was probably really hard for those Israelites to follow such strange instructions. They probably scratched their heads the first time they had to leave piles of good manna on the ground because they weren’t allowed to take extra with them. What a waste, they probably thought.

    And if we really think about it, how many times have we struggled to have the faith necessary to follow the instructions laid out for us? How many times have we allowed our own scarcity mindsets or love of comfort or whatever else to keep us from trusting God at his word?

    What I see in Exodus 16 is profound faith. Though it isn’t as obvious as the faith we see when Abraham believed God for a baby or the faith we see when the paralytic was healed in Luke 5, this subtle display of daily faith is exactly the faith I need to grasp onto during a year that seems endlessly full of challenges.

    God may not have dropped literal manna out of the sky for me in 2020 (or Frosted Flakes, for that matter!), but he has been an ever present help in times of need, demonstrating compassion, kindness, and love to me in ways I cannot express. As I read his Word each day, I gather my daily bread and trust that it will be more than enough – that God is more than enough – to sustain me. And I hope that as you reflect on the faith demonstrated by the Israelites who trusted God for their provision, you will be encouraged to do the same!