You’ve heard it said that, “Life’s a beach.” Well, I guess that depends on where you’re standing. I definitely know that life is full of sand. Sure, there are some really good times when you are swimming through the crystal clear ocean waters in the warm sun, and the wet sand slips between your toes as you walk along the waters edge.
But so often I feel like the sand I’m walking on is the baking hot, dry, windblown sand of the desert. There is not a drop of moisture, shade, or comfort anywhere to be seen. And the sand is everywhere, gritty and aggravating. It gets in your eyes, gets in your mouth, gets in your crack. And every word you speak, every step you take, and every time you try and look forward, it irritates you all the more. It makes you think of of how life is so hard, about how the beach was so nice, and how you hate the people who are currently at the beach enjoying their state of tranquility and bliss … which of course makes the sand in every orifice even more annoying and exasperating.
I was thinking about Moses tonight. Ok, I’m not sure of the geography of ancient Palestine and Egypt, but I think their deserts weren’t always the blistering, wind-blown sandy type. But the Bible does tell the story of how Moses was brought up in the Royal Court of ancient Egypt, where he would have given the best of everything. He would have had the best education, the best food, the best medical care of that time. He would have been respected by the Royal Court and exalted by the people. He would have been influential, and authoritative. Then he remembered the plight of his Hebrew people and in a brain freeze moment, killed one of the Egyptian slave masters. When he realised what he’d done, he fled for his life into the desert.
No more wealth, influence, authority, fine food, health care or respect. From being in high office, surrounded by people who lived for your every whim, to living alone in a desert, out in the open, with nothing but sheep for company. The Bible doesn’t detail all that went on for Moses between when he fled Egypt and when he was confronted by the burning bush. We do know that he was out there as a lowly sheep herder for forty years.
I think for Moses, that forty years would have been a desperate and lonely time. It wasn’t just a physical desert for him, but I think would have been a time of lack in almost every domain – physical, emotional, social and spiritual. He had basic shelter, meager food, uncomfortable clothes. Worse I think, he would have had no one to talk to for days at a time, with nothing else to keep him company except the haunting memories of what he had, of the call of God on his life to redeem his people from their bondage, and how it was his own stupidity that cost him everything including his life’s purpose.
It’s inevitable that, at some point, we will find ourselves in our own personal desert. Sometimes it’s not of our own choosing and we are forced there through circumstance. Usually it’s our own stupid fault. We usually torture ourselves thinking of what we had and let go of, and how terrible our life is at the moment. The desert is never easy. It took Moses from a confident, well schooled political leader to a demoralised man, so wearied by his psychological self-torment that he argued with God that he was unable to speak in public.
I take great solace from the fact that God still took Moses on, and instead of Moses ending his days in a barren hillside littered with salt-bush, he lead his people to freedom as God had originally intended for him to do. “The gifts and callings of God are without repentance” as Paul said in Romans 11:29.
It’s damn hard in the desert. I’d rather be at the beach. But I’m confident that the burning bush, when I see it, will be even better.