Not, perhaps, in the whole “let my people go” bit (although it’s a really cool song) because I’m pretty sure Croatia is just doing its own thing, or even in the “let’s part the waters” thing, because I’m really not a fan of deep water or whales that swim by my head. I’m thinking more towards the beginning of the story, when God was a bush that wasn’t consumed and Moses insisted He’d made a mistake.
You see, I took a handful of steps this past week on the way of seriously declaring an intention of ministry—I know you and I have pretty much known it for a while, but now I’m actually doing something about it. It’s definitely not to the level of declaring Candidacy or anything, but it is voluntarily attending church conferences, beginning to read and discuss one of my denomination’s bedrock ministry exploration books…and creating the earliest preliminary list of seminaries.
Reader, this freaks me the hell out.
So Moses (who supposes his toeses are roses, because I just couldn’t resist making you hear the song that I’m hearing) is one of the heavy hitters of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and well he should be, considering how much of the foundational books are attributed to him. But I’m totally down with Moses because he never wanted that. As time wears on and I finally have to stop running from the great honking God-love in my life, I absolutely understand a guy who’s faced with a totally unburnt bush that’s on fire and has the first impulse to throw out a whole list of excuses when it talks to him.
If burning shrubbery called my name, you better believe I’d never leave my apartment again.
Truly, though, I love this story. God Himself is talking to Moses about going to save the Hebrew people and Moses asks, “But who am I to do that? Who are You? What if they don’t listen? You know I failed public speaking in high school, right?” And after God shoots down every possible objection, even with miracles, Moses says, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.” Or, as Eugene Patterson would have it, “Oh, Master, please! Send somebody else!” (Ex. 4:13, NKJV and MSG, respectively.)
Yes. Yes indeed.
Protestants believe very firmly in the priesthood of all believers, that we are all called to do something in the body of Christ that is the Church (we got really attached to that whole hands and feet idea). But there’s a big difference between being called to help hand out bulletins and being called to intentional, vocational ministry. Not of importance—I’m an avid note-taker, so I think the people who hand out bulletins are some of the most helpful people in the service—but of time and focus and, to a certain extent, trust.
I do not easily trust that God has this in hand. Neither did Moses, even after his staff turned into a great bloody snake. This is why I like him: he was handed the literal Presence of God and was still quite sure he had an appointment to wash his hair that was more important—and much, much safer. One of the Founding Fathers of the faith system that governs half the globe was a coward.
This I understand. And I think most people do, because I don’t know very many folks who really think that getting into Pharaoh’s face about his economical kingdom is on the list of Desirable Summer Vacations. But the thing about this that has also been really interesting this week is that even though Moses managed to actually piss off the Most Powerful Being in the Universe, he still became That Guy. God did not let him go, although there were probably plenty of other people who would have done just as well serving indictments to the ruler of Egypt. God didn’t give up just because Moses asked Him to, and that’s both scary as all get-out and incredibly heartening.
I was looking through an old notebook of mine this week and found the beginnings of a sermon I started to write just after I graduated high school. It was unfinished, and crap, but the point is not whether or not I was working on being Martin Luther at that time, it was that I hadn’t really “bought in” to the Christianity thing and yet I was engaging the text and wrestling with how to explain it to myself and, possibly, others. There are a thousand things that have come to mind in the last six months (because hindsight is always 20/20) that show me God has been there the entire time, waiting for me to realize that that bush is not being consumed and my staff just turned into a snake.
Each of us has to answer our own call. It’s as simple as that. We don’t have to in the sense that God will make us be who He thinks we should be and free will is a lark of the imagination; it’s more that no matter where we go or what we do, God will use that. I’m getting a master’s I won’t end up using in the original way I intended, but does that mean I won’t use it? Does looking at seminaries mean that the trajectory I’ve been on was wasted? Nope. All that I’ve learned has shaped me to be whoever it is that I become, and I can hold both halves together because they will fit that way. I can trust that God will guide me even if I did fail public speaking (which, incidentally, I did not; I got an A, although it took a lot of work, practice, and courage to do so). And I can say to God that I really wish He would send someone else—but if He thinks I can do it, He must be on to something.
Then the LORD said to him, “Who gives people the ability to speak? Who’s responsible for making them unable to speak or hard of hearing, sighted or blind? Isn’t it I, the LORD?” (Exodus 4:11, CEB)