Reading: Exodus 33:12-17
We survived 2020. Hallelujah. But now we are faced with a new challenge— making it through 2021. There was a time in my life when I didn’t think of life as “making it through” or “surviving”, but I think it’s fair to say 2020 burst the bubble I was living in. Here’s the thing though— I don’t want to survive my life. I want to enjoy my life. I want to teach my kids to enjoy their lives. No, we aren’t going to be happy all the time. There are going to be seasons where we are fearful or feel hopeless or grieve or we’re angry, but there should be some joy, some peace that surpasses all understanding, some power made perfect in weakness. There should be some discernible Jesus in us, his followers. Otherwise, what are we even doing?
In The Armor of God bible study, Priscilla Shirer writes that sometimes the fiery darts of the enemy aren’t sent to destroy, they are sent to distract. To prevent us from meeting our full potential, to keep us reactive rather than proactive, to exhaust our stores of energy so that we are too tired or too overwhelmed to hear from God. It’s an effective strategy. I know that because it has been an effective one in my own life.
This morning on my way to work though, I thought of a verse from Exodus that I hope can help us to develop a new strategy, a new perspective, in how we approach this new year. Even if we are tip-toeing into it like parents into the room of a sleeping child. Or members of the bomb squad on their first day. Whichever. I wonder though, if a different approach might be better.
Before Moses ever set out to do what he was called to do, he went to God, talking face to face with him as a man to a friend, and said to him, “God, you’ve been telling me to lead these people, but you haven’t told me anything else. You haven’t told me who you’re sending with me. You’ve said you’re pleased with me, but if that’s true, teach me your ways so I can know how you want me to do things (me paraphrasing).” And God responded to this, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
It’s interesting to me that all Moses asked for was that God would teach him how he should live and lead and walk, but God answers his request without a clear answer. He didn’t say, “Well, for the first couple of weeks it’ll be you and this guy, but then at just the right time I’ll send you this person. By mid-March, you should be somewhere around a river, and then you’ll make a left and go three more days journey…” Isn’t that what we want? A map? God didn’t give him a map. He gave him 2 things: a promise to be with him, and a promise of rest. Moses was asking for what he thought he needed, and God was giving him what he would actually need. Moses was looking for a guarantee of which person would go with him, and God says, “No, you don’t need to know who. All you need to know is I’ll be with you.”
In the next verse, Moses says, “If you’re not going with me, don’t even send me. How else will people know that I’m yours?” To this request God responded, “I will do the very thing you have asked because I’m pleased with you and I know you by name.” Moses adjusted his request. He asked for the right thing. Instead of asking, “God, who’s going with me?” Or “God, where are we headed?” He changed his petition to “Wherever it is, if you’re not going with me, I don’t want to go.”
That’s how I’m trying to approach this year. Last year I had this whole tentative plan laid out— get my mom’s surgery done and have her recover, hopefully get my dad’s transplant out of the way so he could get his life back, keep my kids afloat at school, work hard, write….and now, looking back, what I got was my mom’s death, my dad still sick, my kids in home school, a short period of time where work was completely slow followed by months of so much busy that I can barely keep up….and through most of it I was miserable. Maybe I was asking for the wrong thing. I was asking for a list, a map, a guarantee. For God to bless what I wanted rather than asking him what he wanted to do. But I’m learning now to ask not for a list of my own demands, but for his presence to go with me.
As we start this year with so many unknowns, may we like Moses say, “God, I know you’re taking me somewhere. I don’t know where it is and I don’t know who is going with me, but if your presence is not going, I don’t want to go.” And may we hear him answer us, “I will do as you have asked. My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” —Amanda