But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me… (Exodus 4:1)
I’ve been asked to speak about my seminary journey to the women’s group at my church, and for some reason known only to the Holy Trinity, I immediately said yes. So now—like any good regretful impulsive should—I’m spending these weeks of preparation by envisioning myself bombing in front of a crowd of disappointed women who are wondering which one of them thought it would be a good idea to book me for this gig. Exhibiting a memory heretofore associated only with elephants, I dredge up every bad decision, embarrassing mistake, and example of poor judgment I’ve ever exhibited (including that time I spiked my hair and tipped it in orange) and conclude… I don’t think I’m qualified for this.
In Exodus 3, there is the story of a young shepherd who, while going about the daily business of tending to his sheep, is called to a job he feels—and by all accounts is—horribly unqualified to do. He vigorously objects, Why me? I can’t possibly do this! But over and over again, he is told he can… because God is with him. The young shepherd is Moses. And he will lead the enslaved Israelites out of Egypt.
Having grown up with The Ten Commandments’ Charlton Heston image of Moses, it’s hard for us to remember that in the original Exodus story, he was far removed from the confident leader portrayed in the movie. Moses was a lowly shepherd, a slave by birth in an unforgiving caste system culture, being asked to not only dare to speak to the Egyptian Pharaoh, but also demand that he release a people who had been enslaved for over 400 years!
We remember Moses as doing everything God asked of him, but we can’t remember that in isolation from his reluctance. At every turn, Moses objected, pulling out all the reasons he wasn’t qualified. Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh? Why should the Israelites listen to me? I’ve never been an eloquent speaker… even now I’m stammering. Can’t you see, God—this plan won’t work because I can’t do this. I. Can’t. Do. This.
And God replied…
I will be with you.
God promised to stand with a lowly shepherd who chose to act in the face of fear. There were so many ways this story could’ve gone wrong, and that’s precisely why God needed Moses—with all his baggage—to reflect the power of faith to quell our anxiety and trust in God to guide our way forward. God didn’t need the perfect candidate. He needed a typical, imperfect person willing to step out in faith beyond all understanding. And that’s a task I’m qualified for.
Dear God, thank you for reminding me of your presence in my all-too-frequent moments of self-doubt, as well as those times when I’ve questioned your plans for me. Despite my fear, I thank you for every opportunity I continue to be given to share my faith in you with others. Amen.