Tag Archives: Exodus

Attending to stillness

Be still, and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.
Exodus 14:14

Too busy to wait

We’re not even a week into Advent, and I’ve already stopped waiting.

Of course, I have all kinds of excuses… I’m really busy. I work a lot of hours at an exhausting job that involves being active all day with elementary school kids. I have a lot of regular commitments that take up my weeknights. I get up early to run a few mornings a week. Holiday parties and to-dos have filled my schedule this month.

My life is full of all kinds of good things.

But this week, as I ran from one appointment to another, I found myself hurrying, rushing. It wasn’t just that my schedule was busy — my heart was busy.

And it felt completely un-Advent.

Sure, I went to late-night church services, I prayed in the mornings, and I spent time in the Word. I opened the little windows on my Advent calendar.

But the space of my heart sanctuary didn’t feel expectant or patient, the way a waiting heart should feel. It felt chaotic and distracted.

Reminders of the season

As I’ve been reflecting on my hurried heart, I’ve been reminded of these verses from the Isaiah reading from last Sunday:

From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.
You meet those who gladly do right,
those who remember you in your ways.
Isaiah 64:4-5

Advent is a reminder of these important lessons.

Our good and gracious God is working for us, we have only to wait for him. God is fighting for us, we have only to be still in trust.

We have only to quiet our hearts amidst the hectic comings and goings of life to remember God’s ways, to know God’s character, and God will meet us there.

What a beautiful promise.

Only one week in to this season of Advent, I am already grateful for that reminder.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent 2011, My Faith Journey, Spirituality

No excuses!

I got to spend last week with some wonderful women friends who have known me for years, who love and cherish me for the person I am. Leaving the safe, encouraging space of their company was tough, and I’ve been a little bit down since getting back to California. I’ve noticed myself struggling again with that familiar demon of insecurity.

But this week, I’ve been reminding myself that God doesn’t accept insecurity as an excuse.

In Exodus 3, God calls Moses to lead his enslaved people to freedom, but Moses is insecure. The midrash tells us that he spends seven days giving God one excuse after another to explain why he is unfit for the job. He was raised as Egyptian royalty, rather than with the Hebrews. He is a fugitive, running away from a murder he committed in secret. He doesn’t think the people will believe his message is from God. Further, he is a poor public speaker, “heavy” of tongue.

Moses is insecure about his ability to answer God’s call, so he refuses. As Avivah Zornberg writes:

So convinced is he of his own and his people’s inadequacy – his to make himself heard, theirs to respond to such a message – that he simply contradicts God’s version of the future. (The Particulars of Rapture, 28)

Wow! By letting his insecurities be more persuasive in his own heart than God’s empowerment, Moses is contradicting God’s version of the future!

And how does God respond to Moses’ insecurities? The text tells us that God gets angry! God has chosen and empowered Moses to carry this message to the Hebrew people; Moses is not in a place to deny the power of that call, no matter how unfit he perceives himself to be. It doesn’t anger God that Moses is flawed. What angers God is that Moses would use those flaws as excuses to deny God’s liberating power.

I’ve been thinking about that message in my own life. It is not my job to assess my own adequacy to live as a servant of God; it is my job to respond to God’s empowerment with trust and to live in the fullness that I already am.

And that knowledge is liberating! Since I don’t have to spend time critiquing my own fitness — spiritual, intellectual, physical, or emotional — I am freed to just rejoice in being the person God designed me to be. As church father Ireanaeus wrote: “The glory of God is man fully alive!” Allowing insecurity to hold power in our lives hampers our ability to live fully alive.

What prevents you from living into fullness of life? What self-image do you need to challenge in order to step boldly into God’s version of your future?

2 Comments

Filed under Theology and Faith

Imagining the Impossible

I have written here before about how the Exodus story speaks into my life a powerful lesson of trusting God in the face of fear. Last week marked the beginning of Lent, and the scriptures again had me reflecting on what it means to trust God when circumstances are challenging.

At the Ash Wednesday service, we did a reflection on John 20:11-18, the story of Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene at the tomb. The passage begins with a devastated and grieving Mary weeping outside the tomb where Jesus has been laid to rest after his crucifixion. She has come to dress his body — to give him one final gift of dignity and to give herself the peace of closure. But closure will be difficult to find because Jesus’ body is gone. In its place, two angels sit in the tomb, waiting for Mary. “Woman,” they ask her, “why are you weeping?” She tells them she is grieving because she doesn’t know where the body of her Lord has been taken and she is unable to pay him the honor of dressing his corpse.

How confused and terrified Mary must feel in that moment. For all Jesus’ attempts to prepare his followers for his death, they never seem to understand his warnings fully (remember the “Get behind me Satan!” incident with Peter?) I imagine that Mary and the other disciples feel defeated, lost, and even betrayed by Jesus’ execution. Perhaps they feel they have put their faith in the wrong place, now that Jesus has been lost. Perhaps they feel something like the Israelites felt facing the Reed Sea with the pursuing Egyptians at their back, crying, “We have been delivered only to die?! It would have been better for us to stay as slaves than to die in terror in the desert.” When Jesus died, his followers could have felt like they had come this far, only to be defeated in the end.

Then, at Mary’s lowest moment, she turns and sees Jesus standing, alive, outside the tomb. But because she is blinded by grief, because she does not expect him to be alive, she doesn’t recognize him! He asks her, as the angels did, why she weeps. And he adds, “For whom are you looking?” Certainly Jesus knows that Mary is looking for him! Perhaps it is Mary who does not realize that she is looking for a dead Christ when she should be looking for a risen Christ. But Mary still does not recognize him. Only when Jesus speaks her name does she cry in recognition, “Rabbi!”

He tells her not to hold on to him but to spread the good news. Before Mary can start imagining a life with Jesus around, he reminds her that there is a greater plan that requires him to leave again. I feel for Mary in this moment. How easy it is to hold onto things in my life, even after they have “died,” when it is truly time to let go. How often I let my own plan for what comes next eclipse my commitment to God’s surprising and beautiful plan. And how often I mistake the obstacles in my life for the end, only because I cannot imagine the possibility of moving beyond them.

When the Israelites encountered a seemingly impassable obstacle, Red Sea, they felt they faced their defeat. Instead, they were facing the very moment of their deliverance! When Jesus was killed on the cross, his followers thought they were seeing the end of his mission, his death. Instead, they were witnessing the moment of his victory, his resurrection. Moments that seem like the end can truly be the beginning.

How many times in my own life have a I failed to see the miracles of God because my own grief and defeat cloud my vision? What would happen if, instead of losing faith at the obstacles that seem impossible, I made room for God to deliver me in unexpected ways? How would I live my faith differently if I set aside my expectations for what is possible in my life? Especially in this time of post-grad school transition, when I have no idea what my next steps will look like, these are questions that remind me to hold on, have faith, and imagine the impossible.

Leave a comment

Filed under Lent 2011: Deepening Faith, My Faith Journey, Theology and Faith