by Laura Barclay,
KBF Communications, Networking & Interim Missions Associate
I had the privilege of preaching recently on the well-known Exodus Chapter 3 passage about Moses and the burning bush. You know the one. Moses is happy in obscurity, herding his father-in-law’s sheep when—BOOM!—God appears to Moses as a burning bush in the wilderness. God tells him to go back to Egypt, where he is a wanted man after killing a slavemaster, to help God free the Israelites from Pharaoh’s oppression.
An incredulous Moses reminds God that he is “slow of speech and slow of tongue”. Perhaps he stutters or has a speech impairment. God agrees to let him take his brother Aaron to Egypt to ease his discomfort. Why would God choose an outlaw with a speech impediment to speak for God’s chosen people?
We see that throughout the Bible, God calls a whole host of outcasts—a regular treasure-trove of ne’er do wells, miscreants, and outright criminals. God called Jacob, yet Jacob stole Esau’s birthright and blessing. Rahab was a prostitute, yet was crucial to the Israelites’ capture of Jericho and is specifically named in Matthew as an ancestor of Jesus. God called David, who sent Bathsheba’s husband to the front lines so he could take her as his wife. Jesus called the 12 disciples who are portrayed as a bunch of bumbling guys who can’t get it right until after Jesus’ ascension. Judas betrayed Jesus to the authorities and Jesus’ best leader, Peter, denied him three times in one night. And what about Paul, who previously persecuted and murdered Christians until his Damascus Road experience? There might be a perception that the Bible is full of perfect saints complete with halos, but these stories, and our own experiences with God, say otherwise.
Recently, I began a master’s degree program in Marriage and Family Therapy at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Academically and emotionally rigorous, this program was trying on the first year cohort’s nerves within the first few weeks. Yet, we were confiding in one another minimally. One evening, when stress and tensions were running high in our practicum hour (where we learn the practical skills to be therapists), our self-doubts came spilling out. Are we going to be able to complete the program, become good therapists, and believe in ourselves under pressure? What if we should not have taken these leaps of faith and just stayed where we were? There’s risk in following a calling! A former student facilitating our inaugural meeting assured us that this was normal and she felt the same way her first year.
Instantly, the tension was deflated out of the room and we all felt calmer. I noticed that the next day, the textbooks I found so difficult to understand with heavy clinical language became more easily approachable. We started to confide in one another more when we had questions about curriculum. We’ve formed study groups to more effectively organize the material and readily admit when we are stuck or clueless.
When you have an outlet for these questions, they don’t get bottled up and cause you to question your calling. And that questioning of calling, just like Moses in the desert, was exactly what we were all experiencing. Why would God call us to something so difficult? How can we be the presence of Christ in situations ranging from minor anxiety to suicidal tendencies? Shouldn’t someone more confident than us be doing this?
Moses, the outlaw and the sheepherder, asked the same fundamental questions; however, God believed in Moses and gave him the tools to succeed. God sees love and worth and gifts in each one of us, from the outlaw to the student, from the child to the senior adult, from the poor to the rich, male, female, black, white, Hispanic, and any other worldly label that society might use to divide and marginalize the body of Christ. That old song is true—“We are precious in his sight” as a child is to her mother or father. We are each God’s hands and feet in the world, who can do seemingly impossible tasks when knit together as the body of Christ.
I’m warning, you, though. If we decide to listen to God’s call, our lives might not be easy. Moses was peacefully tending his father-in-law’s sheep and ended up challenging a corrupt pharaoh. He ran for his life from the Egyptian army. He spent 40 years wandering in the desert with scores of people who wouldn’t stop whining and even suggested going back to Egypt. And at the end, he didn’t even get to go into the Promised Land. But was it worth it to take that step and listen to God rather than timidly spending his life hiding from his true self and from God?