Burning Words

Writing makes me queasy.

It isn’t always easy. It’s not even always fun.

Somehow, I feel like Moses would understand me.

“’The cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way Egypt is oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ And God said, ‘I will be with you.’” (Exodus 3:9-12a)

Growing up in the church, the story of Moses became a very familiar one. Proclaimed leader of the Israelites at birth, sent into the Nile river in a basket as a baby, raised by the Egyptians, murderer, outlaw, shepherd… his life is full of adventure, full of the Yes to God and the consequences of what a No to God looks like (see: the incident of the rock and water). There is so much adventure, so much intimacy with such a powerful and important God. The God. Who wouldn’t want that?!

Yet at this point in the story, in Exodus, something crucial happens. Moses has run from the Egyptian law and has been hiding in the desert. He has been tending sheep, has married, and is comfortable in his quiet life. Traveling on his daily route, he notices a shrubbery on fire. Upon closer examination of said shrubbery, he observes it’s not burning up. Out of this phenomenon, God speaks. And what does Moses respond with?gs5

Who am I, that I should… He is filled with doubt, worry, probably shame, and not just a touch of self-consciousness. This is the first time, but certainly not the last.

When I think about Moses, I think about how perfectly placed he was in the story of his people. How the actions of Pharaoh, his mother, the Egyptians, the Israelites, everything, was crafted together to be part of something that had room enough for his heart and room enough for the hearts of his people. His doubt only aided to that story, to the heaviness and the redemption and the humanity of it all.

Maybe the best Moses could do at a given moment was a wide-eyed, sweat-laced, knobby-kneed Why me?! Maybe the best he could do that day was take off his sandals and bow his head. God came near; he wanted to know Moses and be known by him. He wanted a relationship that would cover the entire nation of Israel in redemption and homecoming.

Yeah, I’d get a little shaken up, too.

The point is (at least, the point I’m seeing today) is that even doubt is a sacred movement into the heart of God. Moses didn’t let it cripple him, but laid it bare, spelled it out, reasoned with God, tried to get him to understand. Do you really want me for this? In his openness, his subjection to the possibility of being second guessed, Moses allowed for God to reach in and hold his deepest fears.

I’m not a leading a nation out of exile. I don’t see burning bushes. Well, not literally. But I think that when you’ve got a calling on your head, and God brings about the appointed time, it’s just as hard to ignore the itch to move forward as it would be to ignore a burning bush. I’m coming to terms with a lot of harsh, uncomfortable things. Over the last four years, I’ve doubted, yelled, cursed, beaten the ground, and agonized over the very existence of such a relational divinity in my life. I’ve dwelt in the dark place, in the desert, and I’ve seen miracles. Miracles for no one else’s benefit but mine.

And yet, and yet, and yet… I’ve gotten to the part of my faith where I’m settling down from all the wrestling and thrashing. It’s time to move on. I’ve gotten what I can from this fight, and God remains able and willing to handle whatever punches I throw. This is an immensely freeing thought, and encourages me to keep stepping forward, looking for the next path my feet are to fall on. Maybe it’ll be shepherding. Maybe it’ll be rebuilding a nation from the ground up. Maybe it’ll be baking cupcakes for someone who could use a pick-me-up. Nothing is too small, or too great, to be an opportunity of holy flow and a whispered Yes.

Choosing to write today is me taking off my sandals. I’m not going to hide from God, and I’m not going to let my doubt be so great that it swallows any chance I had to open my mouth and speak. Speaking is scary, but it’s becoming necessary.

The Israelites trusted a word. I’m trusting the same one. Regardless of how that manifests, in a pillar of fire or a pillar of smoke, I’m going to allow my feet to press in to the earth.

This is sacred ground, after all.

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One thought on “Burning Words

  1. Life and art and worship are inextricably linked – from illuminated manuscripts to church frescoes… then out into the world of mankind.
    Keep writing as the mood moves you – you do it well.
    AnnMarie
    Have a wonderful weekend 🙂

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