Friday, May 6, 2016

The Land Between: Motherhood and Missions

I love to read, even just a short chapter every few days when I have the chance. I recently read The Land Between, by Jeff Manion, which gleans insights from the Israelites' journey through the desert that apply to "finding God in difficult transitions" (subtitle). Manion divides the book into five sections: the Israelites' complaint, their meltdown, God's provision, God's discipline, and spiritual growth in dry, uncertain times.

In a nutshell, the author claims that the way believers respond can radically determine their future: "your response to hardship may have a greater impact in shaping who you become than the hardship itself" (p. 46, emphasis mine). The "Land Between" is fertile ground for either bitterness or deep spiritual transformation, and the choice is ours.

What I liked about this book:
  • It's easy to read and remember with vivid descriptions of biblical passages and real-life examples.
  • The author has a good sense of humor. For example, he ate the same type of power bar for all meals three days straight to get an inkling of what eating manna was like!
  • It speaks to readers from many different life stages and situations.
  • Readers are challenged to face sinful tendencies, such as complaint or resentment, and, by God's grace, choose a better response to their current circumstances.

How does it relate to missions?

While this book is not specifically addressed to missionaries, but rather to believers in the U.S., it does address issues pertinent to overseas ministry.

Most missionaries at some point find themselves in dry, uncertain stretches, especially when they are becoming established in a particular country or ministry. Like the Israelites, they might wonder if they really signed up for what they find themselves doing and experiencing when reality clashes with former expectations or suppositions.

At times, it's easy to question if the effort and sacrifice are worth it, and it's all too easy to blame oneself or others when tangible results appear scarce. Sometimes the day-to-day, time-consuming details -- repairing things that break, long lines at the bank or grocery store, using purified water instead of tap water for cooking -- seem like manna, not like a Mt. Sinai mountain top experience.

As Manion says, we have tremendous opportunity either to grow frustrated and bitter or to trust in God's sovereignty and receive what He has to give each day.

How does it relate to motherhood?

Most of us young moms have heard that "the days are long but the years are short"; the daily responsibilities of caring for young children feel endless, but someday we will tell other young mothers to soak up those moments with their kids while they can.

I think it's easy for women to give of themselves until they feel dry and gradually, maybe imperceptably, grow resentful and exhausted. This book was a reminder to me that my attitude while caring for my family day has far-reaching implications for the future.

Someday I want to look back on these tiring but very precious years and know I trusted and received God's provision for all my needs, and, by His grace, reap a great harvest from consistent faithfulness and gratitude.



The Land Between can serve as a kind of "desert roadmap," whether journeying through what feels like a painful, unforeseen detour, or whether trudging through a dry, tedious stretch of life. It reminds us of our spiritual heritage: the mistakes others made that we can avoid; God's provision for His servants; an eternal perspective as we anticipate the heavenly Promised Land. I'm sure all of us benefit from these reminders, whether on the mission field or wherever we call home, and in whatever time of life we find ourselves.

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