It’s a difficult time. However you’re coping with the world today, anxiety is not far away. Whether you’re isolated at home or at work and social distancing, you’d best be comfortable with your own company, at least for a while. That can be challenging at the best of times; we’re not always good at remembering that “love your neighbour as yourself” only works if you love yourself first. And there can be a host of reasons why that’s a challenge.
But here we are, maybe feeling like we’re lost in a wilderness of what’s happening next, will everything be okay and will I be alright? It’s a wilderness of not knowing, of uncertainty and doubt. It almost seems ironic that we’re in the season of wilderness, self-examination and doubt.
For Lent this year, I’ve been talking about biblical characters who had wilderness experiences in their lives. I began with Jesus, of course, the story that inspired Lent, and next week we’ll look at the Hebrews who wandered in the desert for forty years, learning how to be a “people.” But I wanted to also wonder about some stories that weren’t typical, or even desired, wilderness experiences. So we looked at Adam and Eve and Noah. Their wildernesses were anything but desert.
And now, back to the desert, let’s look at Moses. No, not the Moses who leads the Hebrews out of Egypt, who gives them the law, feeds them, finds them water and leads them to the promised land. No, let’s talk about the Moses who was Hebrew, raised as an Egyptian in the palace of the pharaoh, who kills an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew slave and then has to flee Egypt, across the Wilderness of Sin (not, literally, a wilderness of sin, but a desert in the Sinai region) and the Red Sea to Midian.
I can’t imagine how lost Moses must have felt when he finally arrived in Midian. Who am I, really? I’m not Egyptian, but not really Hebrew either. Who’re my real parents? The family I thought I had, wasn’t. What do I do now? If I am one of God’s people, where was God as all this happened? Where is God for the Hebrew people? Why is this happening?
But, of course, Moses sees the burning bush, talks to God personally, finds out what he’s all about and off he goes. Except, no. That’s not his story. Moses meets God in a different way long before the famous burning bush (Ex.3).
Struggling on his own, Moses finds himself in Midian where he stops by a well. He sees some shepherds keeping some women with sheep away from the water and goes to their aid. As a result he meets the daughters of Reuel, who welcomes Moses to dinner and then to stay with them. Moses marries Zipporah, one of the daughters, and settles down to be a shepherd with his family, something he’s not wanting to give up when God calls to him.
Much like Jesus, I think Moses needed to find himself and where he belonged before he was ready for what God had planned. And for Moses, finding where he belonged wasn’t just a people or a place, it was family and it was community. It was people who welcomed him and loved him as he was, lost and wandering, and helped him to know who he is. When we feel lost, wondering and alone, God is in the hands and voices that welcome us and affirm us, just as we are, that reach out to support and care for us.
Even when isolated or social distancing, a caring community gives life, regardless of circumstance or nationality or gender. Moses wasn’t turned away because he was Egyptian or because he had nothing or because of what he had done. He found a community of people that knew themselves well, loved themselves well and didn’t fear to love others, even as they cared for themselves. God’s love is for all.