One of my favorite classes in college was Understanding Old Testament. The class was a gen. ed. requirement, so I registered for it out of compliance rather than interest. I took it second semester freshman year, and I have two primary memories from the class. One is of holing myself up in a Kresge "study room" — which, now that I think about it, was basically just a cinderblock closet — to write a paper on Job. I stayed in there for 12 hours straight, only leaving for bathroom breaks and to get a takeout box from the caf. (I wish I could go back in time and tell freshman Kate to chill out.)
The other memory is of studying for the final exam. My precious iBook pooped out the Saturday before finals, so my mom drove to Asbury to lend me her iBook. I remember that she had almost no music in her iTunes library, but she did have The Prince of Egypt soundtrack, so I played it on repeat all week as I studied.
Somewhere in the middle of listening (and re-listening) to that soundtrack and reading (and rereading) my Old Testament notes, I realized that I was just like the Israelites. That's why I loved that class, really: because it made me realize that I was just like the Israelites.This was in some ways, of course, a disheartening realization. (The Israelites, after all, did a lot of stupid stuff. And then they would shape up briefly. And then they would do stupid stuff again.) But it was simultaneously an encouraging realization. Because I saw how faithful God was to the rebellious, wayward, ungrateful Israelites and, by extension, to me.
I've been feeling a lot like the Israelites lately. Actually, I've been feeling a lot like one Israelite, good ol' Moses, the Prince of Egypt himself.
It seems presumptuous to say I feel like Moses. I'm not like leading people out of captivity or anything. But I have a tendency to act the way that Moses did when God showed up in that burning bush.
If you haven't read the story lately, let me summarize* it for you:
Basically Moses is chilling with some flocks in the wilderness, and he sees this burning bush, so he goes over to it and realizes that God is talking to him out of it. And God is like, "My people are suffering in Egypt. I've chosen you, Moses, to go talk to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of there."
Then God promises to go with Moses. And then God tells Moses how he'll do all these wonders. And then God turns Moses' staff into a snake.
And Moses — who at this point should be like, "Whatever you say, Lord" — is like, "But I am not eloquent."
That's what he says to the God who just talked to him out of a burning bush. He asks God to send somebody else.
And God, following up with the best comeback of all time, is like, "WHO MAKES MOUTHS TO BEGIN WITH, MOSES?" And then he sends Moses anyway (with his brother's help and despite repeated protest).
*Don't smite me for this paraphrase, readers.
This was not exactly one of Moses' finer moments, but this is the moment in which I most resemble him. "But I am not eloquent," I say to God, over and over again, switching out "eloquence" for a hundred other traits or abilities in a hundred other situations. Denying my own "eloquence," etc., might sound humble, but it's really the opposite. It shows that I think my success is dependent on my own abilities.
Right now I see this in the worry I've felt about the master's project I'll be working on next semester. As indicated by my last post, prepping for this project has had me way too stressed out. It feels like such a huge undertaking, one on which so much is resting. I look at it, and I look back at God and say, "But I am not capable. SEND SOMEBODY ELSE."
Even as God has started to bring project plans into place, I have found new things to think I must complete in my own power. The semester is reaching the point when everything hits at once. (You know how it is: projects in every class, presentations on the horizon, and a dozen meetings scheduled for this week alone). My to-do list feels like a physical weight upon on my chest. I look at it, and I look back at God and say again, "But I am not capable. SEND SOMEBODY ELSE."
And God's response is, of course, "WHO MAKES MOUTHS TO BEGIN WITH, MOSES?" Which, when applied to my situation, sounds like, "Who got you into Mizzou to begin with, Kate?"
Who let you find out about Mizzou's program in the first place? Who made sure you had time off work to go visit? Who got you accepted? Who got you an assistantship? Who provided you with community when you got there, Kate? You didn't think it was you, did you?
If you asked me, I would say that I didn't. I would say that God led me to Mizzou, got me in, provided for me once I arrived. I would say that he'd proved his faithfulness a thousand times in the past year since I began. But when I freak out like I do and worry about my own incompetence, I show just how much I think my success has been and will continue to be dependent on my own abilities.
If I really thought I'd gotten where I was due to God's sovereignty, then I wouldn't question my ability to do what's ahead of me. Because it wouldn't be about my ability.
I wish that being able to acknowledge this tendency/problem/pride of mine would make it go away. I wish I could wake up tomorrow and take a look at my to-do list and say, "Wow, that is long. Good thing it's all in God's hands and not mine." I expect, however, that I will wake up tomorrow and feel the same way that I felt today — overwhelmed and tired. I expect that I will look at my to-do list and decide to caffeinate myself and attempt to check a few items off it and eventually just call my mom and cry.
I am realizing that even overcoming this is something that I cannot do in my own power. I cannot through my own abilities make myself stop relying on my own abilities. That is up to the mercy of a God who's been showing mercy since the days of the Israelites. That is the thought that I will cling to tomorrow.