As far as I’m concerned, we need to pay more attention to the story of Moses. Most of us are quite aware of the facts of the story though we usually leave out some of the coolest parts (such as Moses single handedly taking on a bunch of nomadic raiders to save the pretty girls at the well) and rarely tell our kids he was a difficult man to work with who could grumble and complain with the best of them). What we need to pay more attention to, I think, is when God called him.
It wasn’t when he was forty and fit. He was ready to rock and roll way back then. He was outraged at the treatment of his brethren – and contra the Prince of Egypt cartoon, he always knew he was a Hebrew – and he stepped up and struck down a slave driver who was beating a man unmercifully. That sounds great! Let’s rally around him and rebel! Except…
…that’s not what happened.
God or the bulk of the Hebrews or both weren’t ready for Moses when he was ready for them. Instead, God sent Moses away to hide in the desert. Far, far from the glories of Egypt he made his life as a shepherd (he married into the business) and things pretty much stalled for the next forty years.
Then…God reached out and told him it was time to move. When he was eighty.
No offense to any readers who are eighty years old or older but, seriously? It would seem to be an inopportune time to lead a slave rebellion and challenge the mightiest nation in the neighborhood.
I think that might have been the point. And do you want to know why? Because when Moses was about to run out of reasons that God had the wrong guy, God supplied him with…a stick.
A stick. We don’t even know if it was a pointy stick but I’m assuming it wasn’t since it was his sheep whacking stick.
So God grabs an 80yr old shepherd with a non-pointy stick and points him toward Egypt and says “sic ’em!”
I get this story. I love it. I embrace it. Because I’m living it.
I recently spoke at IMPACT, a youth event at Lipscomb University. The team that puts the event together are awesome, creating an alternative world the kids walk into when they enter Allen Arena. Twelve hundred kids are transported to a new time and place with the sets elaborately staged, the drama that unfolds a story bit by bit, and by the worship and (one hopes) speakers like myself. As I entered the outer area of the arena teens ran up to me, squealing with delight that I was there. They wanted pictures taken with me, signatures from me, or just some time and a hug from me.
Whaa??? From me? Don’t they know who I am? I am a 57 year old refuge from the farthest right edge of our tribe who wrestles with God, wrestles with his own sins and weaknesses daily, and who often gets grumpy, offended, and testy. I’m an introvert in an extrovert’s job. I’m a minister with no theological training (critics helpfully remind me of this via email almost weekly) who is wading his way through the swamp of life and getting lost from time to time.
I shared that with a friend who looked at me and said, “Patrick, that’s the point. They know that. You share that with them. You are open and honest about your failures, your mistakes, and how you are one of God’s problem kids. They relate.”
Nicest thing anybody’s ever said to me.
In case you’ve never heard me say it, let me say it again, officially: I am not qualified for this job. I don’t have the education or temperament for this job. While I sincerely love the kids, their parents, and my neighbors I prefer loving them from a distance. I see a vast distance between me and Jesus when it comes to personality and priorities and that distance isn’t narrowing anywhere near as fast as I thought it was supposed to narrow as one ages. I shake my head in wonder and disbelief every single time someone emails or calls me asking me to come speak for them. Why would they want that???
So…I’ll go. I’ll do the work, but only if you know ahead of time that I live life out loud. I will share my struggles with whomever I speak to. For I don’t do this job because I am strong but out of gratitude to the One who saved me where there was absolutely no reason to do so. There was nothing in my character or education or history that would lead God to think “That’s my guy!” No, He saved me so that, as Paul put it, His strength would be made evident by my weakness, His wisdom made evident by my ignorance and folly.
I’m an eighty year old guy with a non-pointy stick. And half the times I use my stick, I end up running from the result (see Moses’ first try). And yet…He loves me, uses me, and saves me.
And that thought takes me to West Virginia. For nearly 9 years we lived on a mountain outside of Morgantown. One day, a new family moved in below us so I took my son and primary dog (we had a backup dog in case the primary dog ever failed to function) down to say hello. As we drew close, the screen door opened and three attack Chihuahuas leaped off the porch in “kill” mode. Later, we would find out that each of them was over 10 years old. One was blind. Another had epilepsy. You can’t make this up, people.
We had some time to discuss this because the wee dogs were struggling trying to get through the tall grass of a drainage ditch that marked the edge of our property. My son looked at me and asked why the little dogs thought they could hurt us – and my 100lb Labrador mix might have giggled. I’m not really sure if it was a giggle or a snort. I told my son that there was much in the world I didn’t know, but I knew dogs and we should stop right where we were. And…sure enough…the door opened again and two HUGE dogs came out. One was a Newfoundland and the other was maybe a Clydesdale (It was BIG, okay?). They sat down and watched us. I turned to my son and said…
“Now you know why they think they can kill us. They have backup.”
I might be an 80yr old man with a non-pointy stick. Or I might be a 13yr old blind, epileptic Chihuahua. But I have backup.
And I have found that being open about my struggles – for the name of God’s people, which he gave them, was Israel: he who wrestles with God – has opened far more doors for me in the hearts of people around me than my education or speaking ability or stunning good looks ever have.
Okay, I don’t have stunning good looks. Told you I struggled.