This past week I have been re-reading the book Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership by Ruth Hailey Barton. It was a book that profoundly impacted me when I first read it five or six years ago.
Barton’s book is a reflection on the life of Moses. It’s a book I highly recommend. It’s highly applicable to the times in which we live which is why I decided I needed to read it again.
To say that Moses’ childhood was dysfunctional is an understatement. Born as a Hebrew slave, he was placed in a basket by his mother and released in the Nile river as her only hope for him to avoid Pharaoh’s decree to kill all the boys born to the Hebrews. Rescued by the daughter of Pharaoh, Moses was raised as an Egyptian.
His struggle with who he really was eventually leads Moses to kill an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave. Afraid of the potential consequences of this action, Moses flees Egypt and leaves behind everything his life had once been.
Moses builds a new life in Midian. He marries a woman named Zipporah and has a son named Gershom and in Exodus 2:22 Moses says,
“I have become a foreigner in a foreign land.”
Now, we are certainly more familiar with the rest of his story – the burning bush, his confrontation with Pharaoh, the crossing of the Red Sea, the receiving of the 10 commandments at Mount Sinai…
But Barton emphasizes in her book that it was these earlier experiences in his life that uniquely qualified him for the part he would eventually play.
Moses was able to lead Israel through their time in the wilderness because he had been there before.
He had already experienced leaving everything behind.
He had already made the journey into the unknown.
During those years he spent in exile, God helped Moses understand who he really was and shaped him into the leader he would need him to be.
I continue to believe that ‘the wilderness’ is a great way for us to understand what we are living through together. Last Sunday night I shared my conviction that God is not waiting, God is working!
In fact, this is a consistent theme that runs throughout the entirety of the Bible. God works in the wilderness. He works in the lives of those living “in exile” from the life they once knew. Jesus begins his ministry by first going out into the wilderness.
The resurrection itself is a vivid reminder to us God does his best work in graveyards.
And all of that leads to several questions that I believe demand much more of our attention in our time in the wilderness.
What is God doing right now?
What is God doing in your life right now?
What is God doing in our world? Our community? Our church?
How is God seeking to stretch and grow us right now?
In what we are going through right now, what might God be preparing us for in the days to come?
We might even push ourselves to wonder who is God preparing us for?
Israel needed Moses to lead them into the wilderness. Moses was only able to fulfill that role because he had been there before.
Embracing that we are “foreigners in a foreign land” right now might just be how we return to who we really are and how we become who God will need us to be in the days ahead.