vigor unabated.

The afternoon began with good intentions. While the girls emptied their lunch boxes at the kitchen counter, I turned on our bluetooth speaker and played some quiet music. “Will you guys sit at the kitchen table and color with me?” I asked the kids. This is one of my favorite ways to spend the post-school, pre-dinner chunk of time, but these good intentions are almost always met with reality: a two-year-old who’s determined to crumple up everyone’s artwork, a four-year-old whose thrill in life is to bother anyone within arm’s reach, and two girls who are exhausted from the stimulation of a long day at school. 

For the next hour and a half, I put out fires. I served up breaks when the screaming escalated, mediated arguments while chopping carrots and onions, and extended comfort when the lion drawing was destroyed at the hands of the—plot twist!—four-year-old. I wish I could say I did all this with patience, but by the time we sat down at the table to eat dinner, I had lost my cool more than once with more than one kid. I was tired of it. The noise was a constant hum of whining and complaining, and that’s when I looked up and saw my brand new letter board staring back at me—one word on its face: DELIGHT.

Jake had hung it for me the day before in between the back door and large window in our kitchen, and all day I thought about what I wanted it to say. What words did I need to see on the daily? As I popped the letters out of their packaging, I thought of a verse from Zechariah 4 that I really only know because of an Alli Rogers song I played on repeat when I was in college: Do not despise the day of small things. Recently convicted to find joy and purpose in even the most mundane aspects of our every day, I knew these words would be a good, consistent reminder as I stood at the center peninsula packing lunches, pouring cereal, or wiping down the surface for the 87th time each day. I fished out all the letters, lined the words up, and stood back to take a look. Too much. The board was too full.

Next I tried the day of small things—knowing the words would serve the same conviction—but it was still too busy. The uppercase, black letters took up too much of the white background. I needed one word, maybe two. How could I encompass this single sentence reminder to enjoy the small things? That’s right: Delight. It seemed both an apt encouragement and admonition.

So, as it caught my eye there in the middle of the dinner chaos, I asked myself a simple question: How many other words can I make with this one? And then, I proceeded to ignore all the noise and movement around me. I checked out for the sake of light, glide, tile, tiled, and 15 other words I landed on by the time dinner was finally over.

The irony is not lost on me, of course—that the very word I put on my letter board to remind myself to stay present and find joy in the mundane moments is the exact word I was using to escape a Wednesday night dinner with my kids. And yet, even when my word search was interrupted by Norah asking me if rice was made out of cheese (Me: No. I’m not sure why Sawyer thinks that), I went right back to it—wondering if “hilt” was really a word or if it just sounded like a word. 

The day felt like a wash. I checked out and had no desire to check back in.

\\\

In the middle of Numbers, the Israelites are in the middle of the wilderness. Their entry to the Promised Land has been halted (not to be confused with hilted which is, in fact, a legitimate word) by their own grumbling and disobedience. Still, they haven’t seemed to get the point, and they basically just follow Moses around complaining about how bad their life is. 

Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness? [1]
Why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? [2]
Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food. [3]

I underlined those last five words in my scripture journal the morning after I anagramed “delight” because it reminded me of Sawyer’s nightly dinner commentary (and made me wonder if it would be less agitating if I taught him the word “loathe.”)

In the middle of all this complaining, Moses and Aaron go to the tent of meeting and fall down on their faces before the Lord—a response I understand deeply. God tells Moses to take his staff, gather the people, and tell the rock before them to yield water. They do this, but Moses adds to the instructions. After he angrily rebukes the people, he strikes the rock twice with his staff instead of giving only a verbal command. Water flows, and the people drink, but it’s now Moses who receives a rebuke from God: “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” [4]

Moses—the man who delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, led the people through the parted waters of the Red Sea, and continually interceded on behalf of the sins of the people—would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land. And all because, in his anger, he struck a rock twice. 

My limited, human response is to feel like God is overreacting. Doesn’t all the good Moses did for both God and the people give him a pass here? How was anyone supposed to stay calm under those circumstances? His life was accompanied by a constant hum of whining and complaining. Of course he lost his temper. Who wouldn’t?

Moses, it seems, is held to a higher standard. He was the example for the people of what it meant to live uprightly—his life the model of full trust in God. This is the call of a leader isn’t it? To show those in your charge how to live. To model patience and kindness and train them in the way they should go. 

The thing I keep coming back to about Moses is that he kept doing this—leading his people faithfully and rising to the higher standard—even after the Promised Land was off the table for him. He never checked out or allowed himself to be defined by his worst day. In the next chapter, he was back at it—interceding on behalf of his people when their grumbling got them in trouble yet again. He saw the big picture. He stayed present and continually led well. And the last words written about him before he died?

His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. [5]

How do you think that would look on my letter board?


[1] Numbers 20:4
[2] Numbers 20:5
[3] Numbers 21:5
[4] Numbers 20:12
[5] Deuteronomy 34:7

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