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I don’t know how many times I’ve sat through a pastor or study leader condemning the children of Israel for complaining, rebelling, and generally having bad attitudes.

Here they were, being led by God Himself, their clothes were miraculously still nice with no holes; they drank water out of a rock and ate manna and quail in abundance; they were protected from enemies; they were given the Ten Commandments.  It was a time of being alone, as alone as a people can get when they number in the millions, with God.

And, yet, these ingrates complained constantly.  What a bunch of whiners!  Really!  Can you imagine how wonderful it must have been to see their enemies destroyed and to be led day and night by The Lord?  Right there with ya?!

I’ve always cringed and kept silent at those studies.  I relate to those Israelites.  I get it!

half emptyI’ve struggled with the “Wilderness Syndrome” since my parents divorced.  In spite of the other difficulties in my childhood, I still saw my glass as half full.  Sure, my own mother hated me, but I knew my dad and my Nana loved me.  Sure, my grandpa molested me, but my other grandpa was very, very good to me.  He was kind and gentle and loving and taught me how to garden and refinish furniture.  He attended my school functions and provided taxi service to them as well.  Sure, I was hungry and bleeding for years on end.  But, when I was at my grandparents’ house I ate tuna casserole and sausage with toast and strawberries and pie and corn fresh from the stalk, raw and sweet.  I felt trapped in a hell of sorts when left alone with my mother, but I had my books to escape to when the weather was bad.  And, when the weather was good, I could run or ride through the fields and escape to the barn with my animals.  And, there was always September to look forward to when I could start school and be patted on the head and adored by my teacher.

My glass was half full.

I remember knowing that my world, as truly awful as it was, was ending when my dad walked out and took all goodness with him.  He no longer cared, and I would seldom see him.  Now, my grandparents would resent having us because they’d be forced to take us all the fricken time.  We were no longer novelty.  We were responsibility in old age.  The barn, the fields, and the animals were exchanged for concrete and a swimming pool that sat behind a transparent chain link fence.  We were exposed and out in the open.  No more hiding from the world.  School became its own kind of hell in the more populous town.  We subsisted off of Pepsi and pizza morning, noon, and night as the party was always at our house.  Crude, raunchy, drunk adults throwing boxes of pizza at the kids in the pool to keep us out of their way.

My glass was half empty.

And, it’s been half empty ever since.

The Israelites were allowed to get hungry and thirsty before God provided those things they cried for.  And, I know what it’s like to be hungry, thirsty, and crying. And, I have a bit of a hard time with those who are full and happy with pretty little lives who will sit and wag their heads at those ungrateful Israelites.

I know I’m probably way off base and really wrong for siding with the ingrates.  I just do.

Count your blessings they say.  List all of the good things in your life.  Have an attitude of gratitude.  Thankfulness is the key to happiness.  Or, abundance.

Trite little expressions to those wandering in the wilderness.  Those whose water comes from the rock only after they’ve thirsted.  Those whose food rains down from heaven only after they’ve known hunger.

I am grateful for the goodness He’s poured out on me.  I am not knocking the graciousness of God, and I am well aware I don’t deserve His kindnesses. I’m just saying the walk gets long and lonely.  And, I can’t fault those who call it what it is. Those who’ve never wandered would like us to sing Kumbaya and skip through the darkness, looking with anticipation for the light on the other side of the forest. It’s just not that easy.  And, I get that.  I get that the Israelites were displaced, lost, wandering, scared, hungry, thirsty, traumatized, and just wanted to sit down.  The last thing they wanted to do was wander for forty years, without a home, without rest.