Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living


Moses, you know, of plague summoning and Red Sea parting fame, was a rock star to me as a kid. He was a better skilled, long robe wearing, staff wielding Wizzo the Wizard type dazzler who just so happened to be tending sheep when he was called by God. I partly blame those colorful hard-backed children’s bibles of my youth for this misunderstanding. Take Noah’s ark, for instance. Those bibles would have you think that all the animals of the world fit on a sort of larger scale rowboat with a house-like structure on top. Happy giraffes would poke their heads out of the side for a little stretch every now and then. And the evil that God wiped away from the earth with the rains? Well, to my little mind, that was for doing things like lying to parents or getting into fist fights with siblings over the last spoonful of Nestle Quick.

But Moses was not a rock star. In fact, Moses was a nervous, insecure, and reluctant leader. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, telling him to go and tell Pharaoh to release the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, Moses had the most non-rock star-ish response: “Yeah, God, about that…” Before Moses acquiesced, God had to prove to him that the Egyptians would listen. I mean, there were staffs turning into snakes and diseased skin transformations, and Moses still did not go, pleading instead for God to send someone else. And there was other stuff, too, like the disobedience about the circumcision, the breaking of the Ten Commandment tablets (I mean, really Moses? God, capital letter “G” possessing God, chisels out rules to live by, and you break them out of anger?), and the taking credit for bringing water from the rock. All of this proves that Moses was not the brave messenger-deliverer I had thought. He was human through and through. He was like me.

As an adult, I admire Moses for different reasons than I did when I was a kid. Yes, he was inconsistent, slow to act, fearful, and prone to angry outbursts, but he was also steadfast, obedient, and repentant, too. The thing that I admire most, though, is that after God told him that he would never enter the promised land, Moses kept right on leading the Israelites. I don’t know how many of us, myself included, would keep doing something knowing that we will never reap the fullness of earthly reward. I don’t know how many of us could be shown the gift and be told that everyone left would get it and not be jealous or catty or walk away from the call all together. To me, that’s the most heroic thing about Moses.

What I love about Moses’ story now as an adult is that it is one of growth. Moses makes some bad moves and some good moves, but ultimately, he sticks with God and God sticks with him. Moses grinds for the Israelites out there in the desert, even in his last days writing songs for them to live by after he is dead so that they can receive all that God has for them. And Moses didn’t do it begrudgingly. To me, Moses seems to be more at peace with his calling and his charge after the water and the rock incident. To me, Moses seems to embrace the fullness of his role with more gusto and emotional stability and faith after being denied entry into the promised land himself.

Sometimes, God will say “no” to the things we really want. Sometimes, He will expect diligent service that will result in no personal reward. Sometimes, it is because we cut ourselves off from the gift by being disobedient. Sometimes, it is because we were never meant to receive it anyway. Whatever the case may be, when God calls us, He has high expectations for us, but like Moses’ story illustrates, He is patient, too, allowing us to grow into the fullness needed to accomplish the goal. And for that, I am truly grateful.



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