As a girl born and bred in the seaside town of Blackpool, I’m not unfamiliar with sand. However the closest I have come to an actual desert would be the windy sand dunes of Lytham St Annes. This is no comparison to the desert spoken of in Exodus 16, one would assume.
The recent sermon series, The Way, has been looking at a number of different metaphors rooted in the Bible and the desert metaphor resonated with me most as a student. Here the desert is used to represent the struggles, when we are stretched to the limit with no sign of relief.
I moved down south around 18 months ago, to start my Natural Sciences degree. Moving to university was both fun and nerve-racking. I love student life in London, but after the initial excitement of moving away from home, it became apparent that actually, university is a bit of an in-between stage in my life. I’ve flown the nest but not yet made it to the professional world. I’m working towards exams that may or may not go my way. The job I get after graduation is as much your guess as mine. To me, my future is uncertain.
When Moses and his people were in the desert, they didn’t know how they would survive or where their next source of food would come from. They prayed for food and God provided quail. This was not just any quail, this was M&S Quail. Well not exactly, but it was an Egyptian delicacy. I was reminded that it is in the uncertain times, the times in the desert, in which we need to learn to trust that God will provide for us, that He does provide, and that He will keep on providing. God wants the very best for us; He isn’t going to give us a Macdonald’s meal when He could take us to a Michelin star restaurant.
The fast pace of London life can often leave us feeling weary but unwilling to slow down because of all the jobs left still to do. I, as a student, am no different. With my latest lab report handed in this morning and the next coursework deadline just around the corner, it’s hard to find the time to sleep anymore. (I know, I thought students were meant to sleep all the time too!). Too often I find myself planning weeks in advance to tick the next thing off my ever increasing to-do list. Often we forget, or don’t want to take a break, when actually, God makes it clear that we need to build rest into our lives. Taking time out to rest is a chance to build relationship with God, and by regularly resting we can make relationship part of our lifestyle. The challenge is to give up a moment or two of your busy week, to spend time with God, praying and trusting that He will provide even whilst you rest.
The desert is not always a time when you can see a light at the end of the tunnel, but instead when the tunnel is pitch black and you have to keep moving forward regardless. When we are in the desert, it’s a time to prepare for what is to come. When Moses was in the desert, he trusted in God, he rested, and he prayed. Moses was in the wilderness for 40 years. He must have become pretty good at those three things, in fact they would have become habits for him.
Although I do not plan to be at Uni for 40 years, the habits I develop in this period of study will stick with me as I enter the ‘real world’. So, as you are trudging through essay after essay, pray that good habits will be developed in you, and that they will last longer than to the end of your degree. Nevertheless, don’t forget to make the most of student life (mainly the free food – people love to give students food!) because Uni will soon be over (so I’m told). Unless of course you end up at university for 40 years, in which case, I salute you!
Image: In Desert, by Horizon, used under CC