Just One Roll of Toilet Paper, OK?
In the desert he fed you manna—something your ancestors had never seen. He tested you to make you humble so that everything would go well for you in the end.
Deuteronomy 8:16 (ERV)
It’s called Manna House, our local food distribution center. I thought I got it, you know, manna…basic needs…God provides…every day. We all know the story about the Hebrews in the desert being fed with manna from the sky (Exodus 16).
But it took me awhile to relate the only-one-day-at-a-time philosophy to Manna House.
I’m not sure where all these food and toiletry items come from that are given at Manna House to our city’s needy—some are leftovers from restaurants; some are mislabeled cans that can’t be sold at grocery stores; some are donations from individual companies.
I just know it’s a lot of stuff.
But there are a lot of people who come for it.
So while a variety of goods can be distributed to everybody that comes in, the quantities per person are limited.
I remember a night I was volunteering to give out toiletries. The toiletry area is the last stop before the exit. After going through the food line, people can ask for extras like shampoo and deodorant, when we have it. A sandwich baggie of baby wipes and four diapers per child. One regular bar of soap or two bars if they’re small.
And one roll of toilet paper (as long as it lasts anyway).
All are welcome to come back another day and get another roll. And many do.
But for this day, one roll is it. Enough for a day for a family. Manna.
Still, people do ask for more. Naturally. And it hurts to say no. But the more rolls given to one person, the less rolls for everybody else. The rolls to distribute are limited.
Personally if there’s one thing I never want to run out of it, it’s toilet paper. We all went through that scare during the first year of the pandemic.
Yet…yet…there’s something about only having enough supplies to hand out for the day that keeps everybody coming back together, both those in need and those who volunteer. We’re all dependent on how God’s people carry out God’s mercy.
Now that’s not to say God wouldn’t want us to bless someone with a 12-roll pack. Or that God wants us to live life on the edge, one roll at a time.
But if one roll a day is what we have right now—with hope for another roll tomorrow—maybe it’s enough. For today.
Does it satisfy me? Does this manna feel sufficient?
- My manna of energy?
- My manna of time?
- My manna of knowledge?
Is it enough to know what will happen today? Or do I want a year’s supply of foreknowledge to store up? Is one set of 24 hours enough from dawn to dawn? And is it okay by me that I run out of energy after 16 of those hours and need to go unconscious for the next 8?
(And would I feel less greedy for more if I hoarded more than my share and woke up with maggots in the pantry like the Hebrews experienced when they hoarded manna?)
There’s something about receiving only enough for the day that keeps me coming back for more. It keeps me dependent on the mercy of God.
Granted, I’ve received far more than a day’s supply of most everything possible. I eat often of the fruit from Canaan (Joshua 5:12)—I’m grateful.
But for the supplies that only trickle in one day at a time, I still want to be grateful. To be humble. To be content.
I’ll just have to keep trusting God’s grace—however it’s delivered—one roll at a time.
One day at a time.
What do you have a scarcity mindset about? Share your thoughts in the comments.
revised from the archives
- Can White People Be Good Friends to Black People?
- 5 Ways to Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations
This is beautiful, Lisa! I’m going to start asking myself this question—do you already have enough for one day—before I buy more. Oddly enough, I often act greediest when what’s being offered is free—even if I don’t need a tube of hand sanitizer, if someone’s giving it away I take one…or two. You’ve given me a lot to think about today!
One roll at a time, one day at a time . . . We need to recognize how God meets our needs each and every day, and be thankful.
Lovely post, Lisa. I’ve never been one to hoard, or even “stock up”. Call me weird, but I actually like seeing my refrigerator and pantry on the empty side. But my time on the mission field really reinforced depending on God for my daily “manna”, given the government even rationed our tiny bit of water daily, and didn’t feel electricity was a staple we needed. Oh and we didn’t even have toilet paper at all for the first 3 years. (don’t ask)
But all silliness aside, I love the thought of coming to God for every bit of manna daily: energy, time, strength, grace….and I can honestly say God has never failed to supply according to His riches in Christ Jesus above and beyond my needs.
Ah, TP. I drink tons of water. That’s all I’ll say! 🙂 But I get the principle. How much is enough? Interestingly, when the Israelites hoarded manna overnight, it rotted, riddled with maggots! Oh my! Yes, God wants us to be dependent upon Him for our daily supply, and upon each other. Independence from God was the Edenic scene that got us into this mess in the first place!
I think, too, even when we receive God’s daily supply, beyond thinking we should have more, we don’t like what He offers. I’m in a church Bible study, where one of the lessons touched upon manna, and some of the ladies said they, too, would complain (like the Israelites had) if they had to eat the same, old manna daily. I didn’t agree, b/c I eat the same thing for lunch every day (I know–nuts! :)), but I didn’t say anything. I got to thinking about the sin of the Israelites to complain about God’s provision and not to see its miraculousness! There was no food anywhere in sight in this desert wilderness, but God dropped honey-flavored flakes straight from heaven which were nutritious enough to sustain them for *40* years! They didn’t have to work for it, look for it, or purchase it. Personally, I LOVE honey! God didn’t have to sweeten that manna with deliciousness, but He did so out of His generosity and goodness.
God has corrected me over grumbling before, whether I think I don’t have enough or I don’t like what He gives. I’m more like the Israelites than I care to admit (and just did)! 🙂 I know I’m far afield from your point, Lisa. Forgive me! It’s a great, thoughtful post, but just put a keyboard under my fingertips, and I’m hopeless!
I need to go drink some more water, and then . . . ! 🙂
Lisa, in my dad’s papers I found notes about “manna as a metaphor for time.” I’ve often thought about working them into a blog post (giving him credit for the material, of course). What you’ve written here goes right along with his thoughts … being content with what we have for today, not operating out of a scarcity mentality, etc. And I love this: “There’s something about receiving only enough for today that keeps me coming back for more. It keeps me dependent on the mercy of God.”
Lisa, what a wonderful thought-provoking post. We really do need to cultivate an attitude of contentment, don’t we!
What came through for me is your personal placement in the context that provides your guiding metaphor. Thanks so much for all the ways you remind me that embodied ministry to the poor is one way for believers to align our hearts with a right understanding of “abundance ” and “provision.”
One roll at a time. One roll at a time.
God is there for us minute by minute. That is really all we need!
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Our manna. Our need today fulfilled. Always enough!
Really makes one reconsider stocking up for a rainy day…enough is enough…
The perspective of those in dire need versus those who are not becomes a little clearer with basic supplies like TP, doesn’t it? And supplies we deem basic in the West versus third-world countries brings a magnifying glass to our heart and thoughts, “Am I content?” And “What do I really need?”
Daily manna – but I want it all NOW! ha! We are such an inpatient untrusting lot. It is hard to balance our want for more security vs trust and being content with enough,
This is really making me think, Lisa. I am a go to Sam’s and stock up kind of girl. I try to always have an extra laundry detergent, shampoo, hand soap…whatever to make sure I never run out. This kind of trust and thinking may be something I need to spend some time thinking and praying about. Not necessarily about my shopping habits, but the mind frame that makes me shop like this!
Love this, Lisa. It’s really easy to get frustrated when you can’t get ahead. Every time you get a little extra, something else comes to use it. But then it’s a blessing to always have you what need, isn’t it? One roll at the time.
This is a really thought-provoking post, Lisa – thanks! I think the pandemic has definitely made me want to stock up more and plan ahead – not excessive stockpiling, but just keeping some extra supplies in case I need to self-isolate. It does make it easy to drift into thinking it all depends on me though, instead of trusting God to supply for each day. I love your point that coming back each day reminds us of our dependence on God’s mercy.
I’ve read in some countries, people go to market every day for the day’s meals. I can’t imagine. I get frustrated having to go to the store twice a week (I can’t seem to get it down to once).
The pandemic really highlighted a lack of supplies. Even now, every time I shop, there’s half a dozen things the stores don’t have (that they used to have in abundance). And it’s different things they are out of every few weeks.
Thankfully, we haven’t lacked anything we truly needed. But, especially in the days of TP shortage, I really needed to learn once gain to rely on the Lord for daily needs.
That’s so true of time, strength, and everything else. “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.”