When God Sets A Table In The Wilderness

When God Sets A Table In The Wilderness April 28, 2021

Well, I finally did it. I bought a harness for Gloria the cat on Amazon. It should arrive on Friday if the gods of the moment smile kindly upon me. Then I’ll stuff her circular shape into it and see if she wouldn’t like to wander around in the garden. And also bundle her into the car and go to my mother’s house. Yesterday we hauled her along there in her box and she had a nice quiet hour basking in the sun away from all the chaos of children and dogs and builders over here. For real, if it weren’t for this cat, I don’t know how we would all be coping.

The work on the house is continuing apace. The bathroom has been transformed from its communist Eastern European chic bomb shelter aesthetic into a bright, clean, this-century room where the lights work and everything works. There is a capacious counter and sink, and actual drawers, so that there won’t be lots of junk piled up in baskets all around the edges of whatever the place where we bathed was called–room did not fit it before–and everything unsightly can be hidden away and only some beautiful objets arranged for beauty and for comfort. And outlets–I kid you not–so that a person will be able to dry her hair without crouching down by the floor getting a crick in the neck. It’s pretty amazing.

Matt will still have to build me a low stool, as he did in the kitchen, so that I will not feel like a stupid, deformed potbellied troll, standing on tiptoes to reach into the top of the beautifully gorgeous cupboard. BUT, the tub is going to be fitted with a shower option arranged to my own stature. That is going to be epic.

So anyway, the whole project has “circled me back” to that uncomfortable feeling I get every few years, of being a stranger and an alien. I think it is the sensation that people are groping for words to describe when they happen upon something in a grocery store that they loved a long time ago in some other place and never could find again. Or when they discover bandaids that match their own skin tone. Or clothes that fit them after years and years of trying to fit into stuff that was made for otherly sized people. You grasp hold of the thing and realize that for a long while you were feeling strangely out of sorts without knowing it, as if everything had been made for people other than you, but here you are, someone thought of you and ordered into their aisles that delicacy that you were so fond of, or ordered in some other size of shirts or shoes instead of the usual ones that fit “most” people.

The current explanation for this discomfort is oppression. Some nefarious person or group of people set out to make a lot of things that were useful only to them because they were blindly privileged. This was very wicked and everyone should stop it.

The other way to look at it, of course, is that groups of people arrange their material lives in ways that make sense to them–both by scale and color and aesthetic sensibility. When other people go to live among them, they will necessarily be uncomfortable, often for a long while, as they try to adjust to the material lives of others–the food, the clothes, the height of the chairs.

Worse, of course, is when one group of people compels another group of people to “join” or rather serve them, the very details of material life make that compulsion ever more painful. It’s like gaslighting, I think. You feel crazy all the time. Gradually, though, the group wrenched away from their homes and families gradually make their own preferences a part of the way things are. Their food and ways of thinking are melded into the culture and after a while, everyone takes everything for granted.

But aside from compulsion, when someone goes somewhere freely and still feels strange and alien, well, that is no one’s fault but God’s, and, therefore, it is a useful and even desirable sensation. Indeed, whenever I stand at my kitchen counter, up on my stool, so that I have enough leverage to be able to chop, or knead, or do whatever it is I am doing without getting a shoulder ache, I imagine how uncomfortable it would be for God to take on the peculiar troubles of a human body. Nothing, surely, would fit that divine glory without some strange discomfort. It must be why, when God called Abraham to be the person who would know him best, he made him leave his home and all his familiar comforts and travel to a strange people and a strange land with a strange language. And it is why, when you become a Christian, you so often feel so uncomfortable, so much like a person who isn’t really included in all the delights and assumptions of those around you.

And it is why God drug the people of Israel out into the wilderness and made them dependant and hot and thirsty. He provided for them there–food, water, clothes, shoes that fit them for the long forty years. And ultimately, when you endure the material, emotional, and spiritual discomfort of life, you discover that all the time God was rearranging you to make you fit for eternal life with him. All that stepping up on a stool to try to reach was just a foretaste of being transformed into exactly the right size and shape for glory.

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