Today’s readings from the Revised Common Lectionary draw something a bit personal out of me. In particular, I am drawn to ponder the reading from Exodus. I’ve had many images in my mind of Moses over the past few decades of my faith journey. It has been twenty years since I gave my life and my heart over to Jesus. I have spent a significant amount of time since then reading and pondering the scriptures.
Yesterday, while reading through “God’s Unconditional Love: Healing Our Shame” by Wilkie Au and Noreen Cannon Au for the upcoming session of the Academy for Spiritual Formation, I read about the practice of visualizing what you read in order to reveal your own internal image of God. When I apply this practice to the idea of seeing Moses after twenty years of study, I will admit that it is hard to describe what I see at first glance.
To be clear it isn’t the following image…
I’ve never watched Heston’s portrayal… Sorry film buffs–it has not happened by this point in my life.
To be honest, my vision of Moses has been deeply affected by my sense of humor. I don’t have permission to copy the image, but this is my work computer’s background (We miss your cartoons ReverendFun.com). My honest impression of Moses when I stop to pray is somewhere between these two images. Moses was serious, intense, and challenged continually. I imagine I’d tear my hair out with the stuff he had to deal with, but I also think that Moses had to reach a point of frustration where he’d have to either laugh or cry. I prefer to think of him as laughing.
All of that being said, I honestly believe that I have never stopped to dwell on the idea of Moses as a father. Was he married? Yeah. His Father-in-Law gave him some really great advice, right? I can easily remember that story. He had two sons. Exodus 18 names them as Gershom and Eliezer.
Gershom’s legacy is that his children become priests for the Danites until they are carried off into exile (according to Judges 18). 1 Chronicles 23 says that Eliezer has one son, but that son had a lot of children. The legacy of both children is tied to the tribe of Levi, but what challenges me is not the legacy of Moses’ children, but the very act Moses is called to engage in shortly after today’s reading.
Moses is called at a burning bush and must go to confront Pharaoh. The people are crying out in anguish and Moses is called to go out to do the right thing. Moses has children and following God will mean that Moses will leave his wife and children with his Father-in-Law Jethro. Listening to God’s call will require Moses to walk away, if even for a short while.
I have two children. My two daughters are shining jewels that challenge me to be a better father and provoke me to occasional fits of face-palming. I have another child on the way, which is pretty exciting. Walking away from one’s children is a hard idea for me to swallow, but isn’t that exactly what Jesus confronts several people about when they resist his call? In Matthew 10:37-40, Jesus says: (NRSV)
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
While I am challenged by Moses’ call and his ability to walk away from his children, I must admit that there is something common in the call on Moses’ life and the call on our lives. We are not called to simply live lives that fall in pleasant places. We are not called to lives where we can always call the shots while remaining faithful. There are times when the call of God supercedes our desires and that can be incredibly painful, but pain is not always a bad thing.
I am grateful that this passage reminds me that God is calling us to a lifestyle where things are not always easy. I am grateful that the scriptures do show that Moses is eventually reunited with his children and with his wife. I am grateful that Moses was not left alone in the wilderness but was brought into a place of safety and refuge by Jethro. I am grateful Moses created a family with Zipporah.
My image of Moses may always remain the man pulling out his hair or the young man from the cartoon, but I am glad there was more to Moses than what I see in my image. Maybe as my hair turns silver I can remember Moses’ story and have an explanation as to why Heston’s hair was graying in that old movie.