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Wandering In The Desert, Part 2: The Things We Miss

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In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.  The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and had all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve the entire assembly to death.”–Exodus 16:2-3

Earlier in Exodus it’s made clear that the Israelites were miserable in Egypt.  They were slaves, hated, feared and overworked by the Egpytians. They feared for the lives of their children. They cried out to God for deliverance, and they were set free.  Almost immediately they became unhappy and wanted the good things of the life they had left behind.

I have never had to bear slavery or hunger, but I sympathize with the grumbling Israelites.  When I first realized how unjust and unsustainable the global consumer economy was, how people and places were hurt to produce the food and clothes I bought, I was distressed. People told me that was just how the world worked. I was initially excited when I found my way to a community based on homesteading, prayer and sharing with neighbors. Then I started to pine for things I’d left behind.

I missed impressing people.  I’d been an early and enthusiastic reader and writer, and I got flattering attention from people who saw me as smart, well-spoken, and idealistic.  I learned that people seldom see farmers in this light.  I hadn’t realized how addicted I was to quick and easy approval until I didn’t have it any more.

I missed the ability to be careless. In theory, I abhorred wastefulness. In practice, I got tired of having to put tools away and use things carefully until they wore out.

I missed having someone else to blame. It was easy to be outraged by waste and injustice that I saw as dictated by the larger economy and society, and to see myself as righteous for wanting something else. It was hard to confront my own wastefulness and my own wish for preferential treatment.

It was hard, but it was hopeful. As a consumer, I had felt helpless.  As a homesteader, I was free to choose what mattered most to me, to grow further into God.  I still have a long way to go, and I still complain much too often, but I have come to cherish my freedom.

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