There’s a part of Moses’ story that often gets lost in the midst of climbing the mountain of God, performing miracles in Egypt, and leading a train of captives out of bondage. Before all that, Moses spent forty years in the desert. And I suppose that in those forty years, he learned something about routine and hiding.
Before his time in the desert, Moses had great dreams, too. Educated and indoctrinated into the royal family of Egypt, Moses was raised in luxury. Despite that, he harbored aspirations of returning to his people as a great leader. In fact, he was so convinced that this was his destiny and God’s purpose for his life that he killed an Egyptian taskmaster hoping to incite a rioting army of slaves to follow him. It didn’t work.
Instead Moses ran from Egypt as a fugitive in disgrace. But the place he ran to is particularly interesting. He ran to the desert, just like me. Dry. Isolated. Frayed at the edges. The desert was a good place for both of us, just two guys living a life of “should have beens.” Moses undoubtedly had lots of questions, maybe some anger, probably some bitterness. Spiritually Moses was in a dry, dry place. He was in a place filled with doubt and anxiety and sin; he was in a place far from the refreshing waters of the Lord.
Where better than the desert for him to gaze at the sky and ask, “I thought I was the deliverer? Why have you abandoned me? Why have you given me this vision for my people and then taken it away?” Where better than the desert for him to lose himself in the routine? Where better than the desert for him to forget about everything that might have been?
He ran into routine—a routine of tending sheep, an unceasing monotony that lasted four decades, but a great place to get lost and avoid engaging in those questions. No longer was he cooking up great schemes about how to get back into the proverbial promised land. But God took it on Himself to invade the routine of the prince-turned-rebel-turned-shepherd and force him to stop hiding.
Moses went from the prince of Egypt to the bottom rung on the socioeconomic ladder, and he spent the next forty years of his life feeding sheep. And watering sheep. And protecting sheep. I don’t know a lot about shepherding, but I would guess that it’s pretty boring. Day after day, staring at the backsides of sheep for forty years. But on the plus side, he didn’t have any daily reminders of what his life was “supposed” to be like. He had hidden, and he had hidden well. Maybe he had even talked himself into believing that he had recovered from what had happened in his life and had moved on to a regular, everyday existence. Moses had created a new normal for himself.
But then, on a day like any other, when the questions that had driven Moses to the desert in the first place had long since been pushed down into the pit of his soul, he chased a sheep up a mountain and everything changed.
A fire. A bush. A voice spoken on holy ground.
Moses was suddenly engaged by God. And isn’t that always the way it happens? We trick ourselves into believing we have recovered when all we’ve really done is hid in the desert. But God is content to wait us out and then eventually to come storming into our lives all over again. We can never really hide from Him.
Something happens. We read something that should in no way make us as upset as we get. We see something that jars us emotionally. We smell something that reminds us of a time long ago. We encounter a bush on fire, and suddenly the wounds of the past—or at least those we thought were in the past—suddenly come to the surface. God finds us out because part of any type of recovery means confronting those issues and questions that drove us to the desert in the first place.
Taken from my book, Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God.