The most frustrating thing in the Christian life is trying to determine our calling. I’ve often wondered, pleaded, and sought God in agonizing prayer for the kind of assurance that what I am doing is within His will and calling. I cannot be alone in this. How many of us have taken Spiritual Gift tests? How many of us seek the counsel of others in this with so-so results? How many of you have prayed as I have prayed? And how many of us eventually throw our hands in the air and shout “I just don’t know!”? Sometimes I feel as if I am in a very dark room with arms outstretched feeling my way for the door which leads out, sometimes I find it and other times, I am left searching.
Recently, I was looking at the story of Moses and his call by God through the burning bush (Ex. 3:1-10). It’s a well-known story, but for the first I saw it in the context of calling. I noticed several things. Moses is minding his own business. He was in the fields doing his work as a shepherd. We don’t know what he was thinking, we don’t know his desires or goals. For all intense and purposes, he was simply doing his job, perhaps content and satisfied with his life as it was.
What we do know from previous verses is that Moses was highly educated, he was raised in the finer things, and he was a murderer. He had flaws, but a lot of potential.
Suddenly God shows up as fire. Hard to ignore in the middle of nowhere, Moses is compelled to go and see what was going on. And in that place, he encounters God. Someone he knew about as he identified as a Hebrew, and additionally, he had been quietly nurtured since his birth by his nursemaid, who was also his God-fearing, biological mother. But we have little to go on from the previous chapters about the kind of relationship between Moses and God.
From this passage, we see that God calls Moses at the burning bush. God wants Moses to be the leader of the Israelites and take them out of captivity into the Promise Land.
Admittedly, I am puzzled by this story. My formational practices suggest when seeking God’s counsel, I need to employ these exercises: intentionality, looking for God in the present, and a willingness to change.
As a person who is constantly seeking God’s calling for her, I look at this and wonder: Moses doesn’t appear to be intentional in seeking God, he doesn’t even seem to be looking for God, and he doesn’t look like he is planning a change in his life. Yet, God comes to him, and calls him.
So what can we learn from this passage?
I must acknowledge that Moses was chosen, set apart for God, from his very beginning. His mother hid him and put him in a place where he would be taken in by Pharaoh’s sister. God protected him and gave Moses every benefit available to a person in that era, in order to prepare him for his future calling.
God’s hand was on Moses life.
Just like his hand is on ours. When we look over our lives from our present vantage point, I think we can see where God has been in our decisions and choices, whether we recognized it at the time or not. He has somehow got us into places and opportunities we can’t really say how it happened. He was working behind the scenes, much as He was working in Moses’ life.
It looks to me as if Moses had no expectations of God. He was simply going through his life, being a husband, father, and shepherd. I have to confess to sometimes wanting to put God in a box. In some ways trying to manipulate him to do the things I think “should” happen, because I have acted in such a way. But, really, I don’t think God works that way.
God’s ways are not my ways.
He is a mystery, and will remain so, perhaps even after I meet Him in heaven. There is always a balancing act of wisdom as we seek God and try to discern what is my realm of responsibility and what I must leave for God to do. My actions do not and will not dictate what He does on my behalf. He will do as He sees fit.
I do believe that we have a responsibility to some action, but sometimes we simply must wait. I was once accused of being lazy as I tried to wait on God. It hurt, because I had done all I felt I could do with no results. Waiting was indeed my last resort. Eventually, God did bring something to my attention that came out of nowhere. Certainly not my timing, nor the timing of the person who called me lazy.
God has His own timing.
Moses had to wait 40 years in the land of Midian before God approached him at the burning bush. That’s a long time to wait for your calling. But sometimes, that is exactly what we need to do.
While I do not plan on giving up the practices of intentionality, looking for God’s presence, and maintaining a willingness to change for God’s work, I must balance what I do and who God is. Doing these things is for my benefit, to help me in my journey of this Christian life. Hopefully in this, God will be pleased with my work, but, again I realize His calling for me is not influenced by what I do.
The following prayer by Thomas Merton is so helpful for me, as I wonder what God wants me to do. This prayer speaks of humility and ultimate trust. I pray you will find hope in it as you seek God in what He has called you to.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.