The other day a friend said to me, “You’re kind of like Moses.” I’m almost always (depending on the level of my narcissism or self-deprecation in a given day) tentative to accept such comparisons, so I asked “How so?” She said something along these lines:
“Moses had to leave his home in Egypt to go out into the wilderness and spend years waiting until God called him to go back to Egypt to be God’s agent of change for his people. Likewise you left Vancouver and have spent the past five years in Orlando, in a wilderness of sorts, to only be called and sent back to your home to be an agent of change for God’s kingdom.”
My mind quickly began to compare the many ways that I’m not like Moses. I wasn’t forced to Orlando because I murdered someone (just in case you were wondering). However the drama-immersed-circumstances-of-my-own-doing I was facing back in 2006 certainly influenced my decision to move. But moreover I didn’t spend 40 years in the wilderness until receiving a call from God. I’m a fairly impatient person and I’m grateful that my wait was eight times less than Moses’. The degree of waiting between Moses and myself is significantly different and I think we often overlook the practice of waiting for God that is demonstrated all throughout Scriptures.
Yet I can see the comparison and I am grateful that my friend pointed it out. God has used my short time of waiting. I certainly feel that these past five years in Orlando have been a training ground not only of my skill-set and giftings, but more importantly it has been a refining of my character.
Moses had a few concerns about returning to Egypt. He addresses many of them in his encounter with God at the burning bush (Exodus 3). One was along the lines of “how will the people receive me?” When I try to put myself in ol’ Moe’s bare feet I can’t help but think of the reason he had to leave Egypt altogether. He was a fugitive, a murderer. What would the people think of him and would they remember his past? Would his past haunt and discredit his purposes?
When I think about this I see how deeply the comparison between Moses and myself can run. I often hear second hand of what people back home think about who I’ve become (or more negatively what I’ve become). Some are frustrated that I’m no longer the person I was, they want the old Alastair to return. But I’m not all that fond of who I was and I am downright embarrassed by some of the things I did. Many of my friends did not see or know that I was miserable, confused, and desperate. I extended what I was to others and I grew tired of hurting people in the wreckage of my life.
At times I wonder if who I once was will always loom in the back of the minds of those who have known me before and after my commitment to following Jesus? Will they always long for me to be someone I am no longer? Will they ever recognize that the changes in my life are not only for my better but also for others? Time will tell.
Finally, I hope that the comparison between Moses and myself will run deeper still. The painting above by John Millais depicts a key battle between the Israelites and Amalek. The Israelites see victory as long as Moses keep his arms in the air (Exodus 17:8-16). The part the narrative left out is that he was waving them around like he didn’t care (bad joke, I know … I couldn’t resist). The problem was that human frailty kicked in. When Moses arms dropped the Israelites began to lose. Aaron and Hur took a stone so Moses could sit down and rest. They held his hands up so that “his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.”
I hope that I will embrace such weakness. God is the one who works through me and who has called me. I am participating in his mission and not my own. I hope that I can lean into others in my weakness and recognize that God has not called me to do this alone. In the times when I need to lean into people I pray that I will be vulnerable enough to ask for help and that my friends will be bold enough to help when I’m too stubborn to ask.
I hope like Moses that when I’m weak I will find strength in my weakness. My past brokenness and failure will not discredit what I am doing in Vancouver because, ultimately, nothing can thwart God’s purposes: not even weak and mess-prone vessels like myself. I simply want others to know that Jesus got out of the grave and that it really does change everything. I hope that I will extend what I am now to others: a broken person who knows the transformative mercy, compassion and love of God.