Spectacularly Unqualified

Lots of ideas float around about the things that God calls His people to. Lately I have heard, rather a lot, that God is like a father who wants his children to be happy and to enjoy what they are doing. I've heard that obedience will bring us joy, and that if we're not enjoying what we're doing, maybe something's wrong.

I think only one of those claims is true--that obedience will bring us joy. It's just that "joy" doesn't necessarily translate into enjoying the process. Joy is the deep assurance that you have pleased God, even if you hurt along the way.

I struggle with my call. Nothing about me enjoys leaving my family. I think only a psychopath would enjoy that. I don't enjoy living in a different culture and being misunderstood for my differences, or being expected to conform to standards of behavior and thinking that I'm not even aware exist. I don't enjoy the pressure to plant churches. I don't enjoy feeling the pressure to meet strangers and share the gospel, especially in a place with so many people who have a really broken concept of what it means. I don't enjoy having to justify or explain why I'm here in Mexico. I don't enjoy being rejected or simply not having people wanting to hang out with me because I don't go clubbing or like to watch certain kinds of movies. I don't enjoy feeling like a failure when I miss an opportunity. I don't enjoy spending a lot of time just figuring out how to get out and do what I'm supposed to do, rather than having a clearly defined job with a decent salary and an understandable career trajectory. But all these things, in their own ways, are part of the call that I experience as I serve God.

That's why Moses has been really comforting to me today. At the end of four hundred years of oppression promised by God in Genesis 15, God calls Moses out to serve Him and deliver the people.  And Moses says no--like five times. Shall we look at what Moses is dealing with, when God calls him?

  • Broken dreams: Moses had been raised with a purpose. In a day when the Pharaoh had ordered the killings of all male Israelite babies, Moses' parents had seen such a beauty in him that they had hid him until it was no longer possible. When they finally gave him up, they received him back from the dead (in a figurative sense), from the very hand of the daughter of their nation's enemy. He was even named for this rescue--"drawn out" from the waters. He was nursed by his Hebrew mother and introduced to their ways, hopes, and dreams; and he was educated in all the style of his adoptive Egyptian mother and given access to Pharaoh's wealth. He had the purpose of a man of the people of God, circumcised into the covenant and inheriting the promises of Abraham; and he had the confidence of one raised with royalty, whose spirit had never been crushed by slavery. As Stephen says in Acts 8:25, he thought of himself as Israel's liberator. But he had lost all that.
  • Rejection: Just when Moses had positioned himself to lead a liberation movement, he was rejected and accused. Just as the people of Sodom had said to Lot, "This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge!" so the Israelites say of Moses, "Who made you ruler and judge over us?" Talk about being misunderstood! At the moment that Moses had crossed the line and allied himself with his people, they rejected him. For someone who had dreamed of delivering his people and probably basking in their loyalty and gratitude, this must have been crushing.
  • Past failures: Moses failed to do what he believed God had called him to do. He killed an Egyptian, without meaning to, hid the body, was found out, and was rejected by Egypt and pursued as a murderer. God had called him as a deliverer, and he had spectacularly failed, gotten himself kicked out of the country, put Israelites in danger, and had to live in hiding for 40 years.
  • Irrelevance and obscurity: Can I sum this up as "out of sight, out of mind?" Anyone who goes into overseas work knows that it takes a miracle for people to remember that you exist after you've been gone for a few years. They have to be your family or your very best friends, and even then there's no guarantee. And this is in the age of email, Skype, FaceTime, and WhatsApp. They drill into us in training that we need to keep reminding our home churches that we exist, with a multitude of letters, blog posts, conversations, or even physically bringing over teams to see what we're doing. That's how powerful the need for relevance is. You don't communicate a lot, you don't exist. You don't exist, sooner or later you don't get support. And Moses is gone for 40 years. He's a footnote for the people that loved him best, a file in the Egyptian criminal court system, and absolutely nothing at all for anyone else. He could be dead, and they wouldn't know.
  • Roots: For better or worse, Moses has made a life in Midian. He has a wife, kids, and a new adoptive family. He's got sheep. They probably have names. In other words he's put down roots. He's no deliverer, but he's learned how to live with that. He's learned the art of treating sheep diseases and helping them to give birth. He's learned how to sleep outside, how to read the desert for signs of life and water. He's learned to be a husband and dad, and for 40 years, that's been what he knows. And God is calling him to leave all that. 
  • Insecurity: Have you ever failed publicly and spectacularly at something and then stepped out to risk it again? When I was a teenager, I totaled my first car. That very evening, my dad made me drive someone to their house in his truck. He knew that if I waited the fear would grow, and that it would be harder for me to get back behind the wheel. Failure and time to dwell on it would make me timid. Was I angry with him? Yes. Was it the best thing for me to do in the moment? Yes. But Moses has been gone for 40 years, with nothing but time on his hands to think about his failure--to think about his people languishing in slavery because he had acted rashly. Additionally, he's been in a different tribal group. However good his Hebrew was before, he's out of practice now. His Egyptian too is probably lacking. He's grown used to different customs and different food, and he has probably forgotten most of what he ever knew before. How in the world is he supposed to handle this?
  • Fear: The last time Moses was in Egypt, he was under murder charges. Now he's being called back to go to the country where he's wanted for murder. It's going to be one man versus a whole country. On top of that, he is supposed to waltz up to Pharaoh, the embodiment of a god, and demand that he free the slaves on whom the entire economy of his kingdom is based. It is an impossible task, and certainly a great risk to Moses' very life. 
  • Unwillingness: Moses just doesn't want to go. He'd rather God send anyone else--anyone at all. At the heart of it, he simply doesn't believe in what God wants him to do, and he puts out several different excuses for not going before saying to God, "Please send someone else."

Basically, Moses is spectacularly unqualified for the position. He's a screwed up bundle of faithlessness and insecurity and fear. Many of us would probably say that he isn't called. My mission agency probably wouldn't send him (I'm being generous with "probably"). He looks like a great example of someone being set up for failure. If past performance is an indication of future success, then Moses is a big fat zero.

What does this say about the call--about serving God? I think part of it is that God does call us to things with which we have no experience, or even things to which our personalities may not be suited. He calls to the impossible, to the pain, to the risks. How then can I test my call? By my suitedness, or my willingness, or my enjoyment of the task?

No. Only this: did God say, "Go!"? And everything flows from there.

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