17 years ago I was a young Marine at the School of Infantry in Camp Pendleton, when I found myself in the field training for over two weeks. We had only been eating MRE’s and had been living out of our packs for the entire training cycle. Finally, we got hot chow one afternoon. I remember being served meatballs with gravy, mashed potatoes, salad, fruit, and smashed on top of it all was a piece of chocolate cake. The instructors were serving us dinner that day and they thought it was funny to mix all the food together. As per Marine tradition, no one ate until all were served in my Platoon. I didn’t even care that I was dirty and smelly, or that my food was all mashed and mixed together, I was just so happy that I wasn’t eating out of a pouch that I had carried around all week. So, as soon as I got my salt and pepper shaken onto my meal, I started to dig in. No sooner than, the instructors started throwing artillery sims into our chow circle and more instructors started knocking the food out of our hands and screaming for us to get to cover. As an older, wiser, and more mature person now, I can see the training value of what they did. But at the time, I was so upset by my missing portions. Seriously, after that incident, I ate food at Olympic-record speeds. I was NEVER going to miss a hot meal again. 17 years later, I still have to will myself to slow down when I eat…that is how important getting my daily portion became to me.
This morning, I arrived at work after a horrible night’s sleep* and read my morning devotional. This verse out of Lamentations was in the study: ‘I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”’ Obviously, I have tied together my story of my missing meal – which, silly though it may seem now, I had placed so much value upon – with Solomon’s statement. I think about how often I get so impatient for things and how important I make things that aren’t really so. Even back then, as soon as we got to cover, I just dug into my pack and pulled out a pouch of Peanut Butter and squeezed it over a cracker. So, I still ended up with food, though honestly, MRE’s suck. Solomon said that the Lord was his portion, and I started to think about what that really means. Back in my infantry days we would be given our daily portion to carry around with us. We would usually field strip them which entailed taking out the parts that were bulky and getting rid of the wasted space. Oftentimes we would trade for our favorite combinations. Mine at the time was White Rice and Peanut Butter…low weight, high calories. We would then have to figure out when and where we could eat our daily portion while still maintaining our tactical situation. My daily portion was about 1800 calories that I could carry in a cargo pocket.
But look again at what Solomon said. The Lord was his portion. The Lord? How big is He? What is His nutritional value? And what would His MRE packet say? GOD, LORD ALMIGHTY with gravy? I can’t even begin to think of a way to even comprehend how large and how majestic God must be. The times that I have gained some understanding of Him pale infinitely with who He actually is. Elsewhere the Word talks of His love for us that is so great that He chose us over His own Son. I can’t fathom that. I would chose my own children over anyone else, no hesitation, because I love them more than I can express. But God loved us, you and I, to the point that He made the choice I wouldn’t. So God, who is unable to be described – unable to be measured – unable to be denied – unable to not love us, is our portion.
I once was so devastated by the loss of a portion of food that it actually changed my behavior. Think about that for a moment. That portion was so important to me that I took steps to NEVER miss it again if I could at all help it. Solomon writes that the Lord is my portion. I want to feel about God the way that I felt about that meal. I want to be so desperate for His love that it changes my behavior so that I will NEVER miss it again. The key, I think, comes from the therefore in the verse. When you see ‘therefore’ it really means ‘since what I just said is true, then’. Solomon said ‘I will wait for Him.’ That can seem confusing because English is so imprecise. When he says ‘wait,’ it is easy to think of standing on the sidewalk waiting for a taxicab to arrive: “Where is it already!” In truth, it is more like when your squad reaches the rally point and deploys just waiting to move in on the mission. You sit, waiting, ready to move until all the pieces are in place and the order is given. When we wait on the Lord, it is not an impatient “where is He?” But it is a still, collected, and prepared “ready to receive.” He is our portion, and since that is true, then we are ready to receive.