Unfamiliar Manna

by APC on April 29, 2020

I sat there on the bench, side-by-side with my piano teacher. “I don’t know how to play this passage,” I exclaimed, fully exasperated. “I need you to play it for me so I can hear it.”

In learning a song, hearing the music has always been helpful to me. My ear grasps the rhythms, harmonies, and techniques. Once absorbed through the ear and processed in the mind, the learned information is somehow transcribed down through my hands, and my fingers emulate all the components as best as they can.

That day, my teacher didn’t play the music as I had asked. Instead she asked questions: What’s the time signature? What’s your key? How many beats are in a sixteenth note? What fingering do you need to use to move fluidly to the next measure? I was initially taken aback—shocked she wasn’t demonstrating the piece as I had assumed, but answered her questions, one-by-one.

Then, to my horror, she said, “Play it slowly.” What? My mind raced. Play something I already don’t know how to play? Is she crazy? This is why I asked for help in the first place! My ashen face brought a repeat instruction: “Play it slowly.” I began the painstaking process of fumbling through the notes with my unprepared fingers. As I commenced, my teacher said, “No, it’s one-e-and-a, two-e-and-a.” I forged ahead. “Try 3-5-4-2, then bring 1 underneath to the 4th position, and continue 1-2-3-4-5 in your fingering.” “Good, now do it faster. Again. Again…”

Then, it happened. Something clicked. Through her instruction and guidance, the melody came together, my fingers moved in graceful dexterity, and a beautiful harmony emulated from the instrument. The unfamiliar passage of music had now become familiar.

So he humbled you by making you hungry and then feeding you with unfamiliar manna. He did this to teach you that humankind cannot live by bread alone, but also by everything that comes from the LORD’s mouth (Deuteronomy 8:3, NET).

I needed help from my piano teacher that day, and I had a preconceived notion for how I would receive assistance to get on my merry way toward mastering another concerto. However, my relief didn’t come in the form I’d fabricated in my mind. My piano teacher had a different methodology, a far different solution—a way in which I was unfamiliar and very uncomfortable with.

When we’re in need of God to move in a situation, we often have the perfect way God should intervene constructed in our mind’s eye. We know the how, when, and where—all the minute details God should follow to bring us to victory. However, God doesn’t follow our plans or our ideals. In fact, He’ll use His own solutions that seem unfamiliar to us.

When Israel was in the wilderness for 40 years, they didn’t have any food. After crying to the Lord, God opened the heavens and manna fell. Scripture tells us it was unfamiliar to them, so much that they asked, “What is it?” (Exodus 16:15). This manna didn’t align up to their cuisine, delivery, or presentation. They had their own solution for sustenance, but God had His. Consuming manna was the only way their lives would be saved. They had to abide in the direction God provided and not their own.

God will use unconventional and unfamiliar ways to reach us and perform miracles. We must trust that He is going to perform a good work in us. It will be challenging; it will make us uncomfortable. But, we’ll survive in the end because God’s ways are perfect and they always work.

The next time God puts something unfamiliar in your pathway, don’t run from it; don’t avoid it. Embrace the unfamiliar even if you have to ask God, “What is it?” The journey through the unfamiliar might be uncomfortable and a little rough, but the Lord will show you how unfamiliar manna is perfect and necessary to bring you to a glorious finale.