When I was in counseling a few years ago, the therapist told me that pain is caused or experienced in three different ways: our sins, another’s sins and the sins in this world. I’ve taken that with me, processed it 100 different ways and still go back to it often. But it wasn’t until a few months ago, though, when my Sunday School teacher got down at eye level with me and the other women in our single parenting class and said, “Listen, ladies. I need you to listen to me. What your ex-husbands did–left you–this is not your fault.” It took 5 1/2 years for this idea to click. This was not my fault. Yes, I have acknowledged over and over again that it took two to tango, to get to the point where he even considered leaving, but it was his decision, and that’s it. There was nothing I could do to change it, but still I wrestle with the effects of it (and still do) as we share the parenting of our daughter. But the bigger question remains, am I now “marked”? Can God use me? Yes. And He has been ever since.
Interestingly enough, my study of the character of Moses brought me through this sort-of rabbit trail of grace. I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand why Moses was not allowed in the Promised Land, I kept questioning in my head–What? That’s so not fair, especially after Moses has given his life, in obedience to God, to serve the Israelites. I was particularly incredulous after reading this passage on the character of Moses:
Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt–to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
In my human understanding, I tried to reconcile this with Psalm 106:32-33
By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord, and trouble came to Moses because of them; for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips.
Twice in the desert, God gave Moses instructions on how to provide water for the people of Israel:
Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.
Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.” But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.
It’s true, this second time they complained, Moses reacted in disobedience to God. Moses and Aaron suffered the consequences of this decision.
But, we can’t lose sight of the person that God formed Moses to be, yes, he sinned, and yes, he lost this blessing of entering the Promised Land.
However, this is what I take from Moses’ experience:
1) If our hearts are surrendered, God uses us.
2) We are responsible for our own actions, not another’s
3) Even in how we respond, there is grace. Sister, brother, I have done and said so many things in my life that I wish I could go back and revise or altogether delete the footage that played out. All of us do. That is the most amazing part of what Christ did for us on the cross. He has this magic eraser to blot out our sins.
Our lives will look differently from others who have chosen to obey God from the start, they will look perfect, even, but don’t allow that to set you up for failure, even these picture perfect families, marriages and children have struggles.
Be of good courage, God sees your heart, that’s the only thing he sees, not your FB status, your car out in the driveway, the money in your bank account and certainly not the clothes you are wearing right now. He sees you and he loves you, just as he saw and loved Moses and Aaron. Sure, Moses received only a glimpse of the Promised Land–
Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land–from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”
I don’t see this as taunting, it’s like God took him into this beautiful, expansive secret, this promise that he wanted to show to Moses to say, “Look, when I told you I AM. I AM a promise-keeper, a Provider, a Shepherd a Father who loves his children. I AM all these things and more. I love my children so much and I love you, too, thank you for caring for them, my good and faithful servant, Moses.”
Duet. 34: 10-12
And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor…Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.
Let it be said for each one of us, that no matter how we’ve started out, let us finish this well.