As most of my family and friends know, neither Bryan nor I eat very much meat. On and off, I have spent almost 4 years of my adult life somewhere along the plant-based diet spectrum. Nevertheless, being back in Spain where the quality of meat is much higher than what was available back in China, I have taken to occasionally indulging in a steak or hamburger every one or two months. Including a bit more variety in my diet has been great, especially since it makes eating out much easier with friends. With all that has been going on in Spain the last several weeks, though, we made the choice to cut back our grocery list to the barest of essentials because we did not (and still do not) know how long the quarantine is going to ultimately last.
Since we do not normally buy meat to cook at home, that was an easy item to cut from our quarantine shopping. Some of our regular items, however, were really missed (here’s looking at you vino blanco). The first two weeks of quarantine we made do with just beans, lentils, rice, pasta, frozen veggies, and oranges. While we lacked variety in our meals, we knew that it was essential we stay away from grocery stores to 1) reduce our risk of picking up the virus and 2) give the shops a chance to restock. It definitely had its rough moments, but we made it through those first two weeks safe, healthy, and very well-fed.
Now that the state of alarm has been extended through the end of the month and the rate of contagion is slowly plateauing, I decided to head out for another two week stock-up. Having not left the house since my last grocery run two weeks prior, I felt some anxiety building up, but, with a few deep breaths and the exciting thought of being outside, even briefly, I set off.
My grocery store was stocked at almost normal levels, although the staff and customers in masks and gloves reminded me of the gravity of the present pandemic. I quickly loaded up my cart with staple goods- rice, beans, frozen vegetables, canned fruit, and several packages of lentils. Yet, with all of the quarantine and school closures and sickness and overflowing ICU wards, I wanted a bit of comfort. I wanted a bit of normalcy, hell, even a treat. So I passed by the supermarket’s butcher and picked up a pot roast for Holy Thursday. The virus can shut our churches down, but there is no reason for it to ruin our personal devotions.
As our Lenten observances come to a close this week, I am drawn to the story of the Exodus as the people of Israel wandered about the desert, hungry and cranky. God provided them manna every morning to meet the day’s nutritional needs. They could only take enough for that day’s needs since any extra would rot (except in the case of the Sabbath when they were to eat leftovers from the previous day). Yet, like most folks who have to eat the same healthy, life-sustaining food every day, manna alone got pretty boring. They wanted *meat*! So, in true God fashion, He sent them quail. Sure He did not send them lamb or beef, but it was better than nothing. God provided everything they needed plus some, even if it was not exactly in the way they had hoped or planned.
In our quarantine, lentils have been our manna – and I have done my darnedest to not ‘grumble against the Lord’ – but wandering around your house for weeks on end (or the desert for 40 years) can wear on you. In those moments, God makes a way for you where there seemed to be no way. It may be quail plopped outside your tent or a pack of cookies you forgot you had in the cabinet. It could even be a pot roast.
Much like the people of Israel who spent 4 decades wandering about a desert, we who are living through the COVID-19 pandemic do not know how or when we will be able to return to normal life. It does not make sense, and for many of us, myself included, it sometimes feels like our world leaders are going in circles as they keep repeating the same mistakes over and over. Yet, there will be an end to this, and we are going to have the opportunity to create the world anew, much like the people of Israel created a homeland for themselves in Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey.
So do not despair over your lentils and beans for these are your manna; they are just enough to get you through.