I’m pretty good at rationalizing things.
Take donuts, for example. Why do I get two donuts when my four year old can only have one? Because I have a bigger stomach, of course. Never mind that they are completely devoid of any nutritional value. Wait, no they aren’t! Surely there is SOMETHING in a donut that is nutritious… and even if there isn’t, that glass of skim milk I’m having with my donut is well worth the nutritional cost of the donut itself. After all, if I don’t have the donut, I’ll have no reason to have the milk. But milk is so vital to my body! The calcium, the vitamin D… as a Caucasian woman with osteopenia in her family, these are things I NEED! So… if I really want to take care of myself, I better grab a donut so I can drink some milk with it. And when I get done with that donut, if I have any milk left, I should go ahead and have a second donut so I can finish the remaining milk my bones are so desperate for.
See that? See what I did there? I can make eating junk food sound noble.
This is a good skill to have if you’re a salesman or a lawyer. It’s a TERRIBLE skill to have if you’re in a relationship with the Lord. Rationalizing with Him typically exhausts me, frustrates me, and wastes a lot of time.
When God tells me to do something I don’t want to, I can put up quite the fight. I use all the logic I have to convince God it’s not really in His OR my best interest to do what He’s asking.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I say, “Stop and think about it, Big Man. If I stop looking to others for affirmation, like You’re telling me to, I’m gonna feel empty and depressed and devoid of value. Not only will that be unenjoyable for me, people are going to start thinking You’re pretty unfulfilling. ‘Kelly sure is bummed most of the time,’ they’ll think, ‘I guess her God isn’t all He’s cracked up to be.’ They won’t think it is my fault; they’ll think it is Your fault. And since we don’t want to damage Your street cred, we’d be better off just leaving things they way they are. I’ll keep getting my affirmation from people instead of You, and You’ll keep looking like a pretty great God to serve, which we both know You are!”
After I lay my argument out there, I give the Lord a little nod as if to say, “C’mon, God, You know I’m right on this one.”
God always listens to my thoughts with patience. When I’m done saying my piece, He usually smiles gently and raises an eyebrow, communicating through His body language that He loves me, He hears how scared I am to do what He’s asking, but His mind is unchanged despite my carefully constructed protest. I haven’t convinced Him of anything except the fact that I will go to great lengths to not have to face the underlying fears that are keeping me from obeying Him.
It’s good to know I’m not alone on this one. When God told him to lead the Israelites out of the bondage they were experiencing in Egypt to the Promised Land, Moses rattled off reasons why he wasn’t the man for the job. Moses argued that he was nobody special; God should rethink this (Exodus 3:11). When God offered him comfort instead of conceding to him, Moses went to argument B. Not only was he not special, Moses was sure that he’d be met with resistance (Exodus 3:13). “Might as well not even try,” Moses insinuated, “The Israelites are never gonna believe that You sent me.” So God told Moses exactly what to tell the Israelites to convince them to follow him (Exodus 3:14-17). Not only that, God also promised He would take care of the Egyptians. God would work in their hearts to compel the Egyptians to release the Israelites -the Egyptians’ slaves – and send them on their way with silver, gold, and clothing (Exodus 3:21-22).
But that wasn’t enough for fearful Mo’.
Unable to come up with a third argument against the Lord’s plan, Moses returns to his second argument, “What if [the Israelites] do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” (Exodus 4:1)
If I were God, this is the point I would lose all my patience. I would become infuriated toward Moses and either go find someone else who is willing to obey without all the hassle or just smite the fool right then and there.
But God doesn’t do that.
He maintains His composure, and, like a sympathetic Father, He continues to try to assuage Moses’ crippling fear. God tells Moses He will perform three different miraculous signs through Moses in front of the Israelites in order to prove to the Israelites that God is indeed with Moses (Exodus 4:2-9). Surely there would be zero room for the Israelites to doubt Moses then. Surely Moses’ confidence in God’s plan would be rock-solid at this point.
But it’s not.
Moses rehashes argument A. Exasperated, he reiterates that he is not special by saying, “O Lord I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue,” (Exodus 4:10).
You can almost hear the fear in Moses’ voice. I imagine him despairing, “Lord! I am not a good speaker, how can I be a good leader?!” Moses didn’t have charisma or professional speech writers. He knew, as long as it depended on him, he would never be able to convince an entire nation to follow him.
When my own kids are fearful of something, regardless of whether the fear is silly or serious, all I want to do is scoop them up and protect them. I see the sheer terror in their eyes, the tears on their faces, and the last thing I want to do is force them to face whatever is spooking them.
I picture God, with his compassionate Father-heart, being really affected by Moses’ confession of fear. I suspect God had to really fight His Fatherly desire to let Moses off the hook in order to alleviate His beloved child’s fright.
Instead, God reminds Moses that He is in control. He reassures Moses again, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say,” (Exodus 4:11-12).
In his last ditch effort to convince God to change His plans, Moses shelves his negative, self-deprecating comments and resorts to straight-forward begging. “O Lord,” he says, “please send someone else to do it” (Exodus 4:13).
To recap, God tells Moses to do something he doesn’t want to do. Moses tries to convince God that He is making a mistake via FOUR DIFFERENT ARGUMENTS! I’m not special; the plan won’t work; I don’t have what it takes; PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME!
In the end, Moses doesn’t convince God of anything except the fact that he will go to great lengths to not have to face the underlying fears that are keeping him from obeying God.
Hmm. Sounds familiar.
SPOILER ALERT: Moses winds up obeying God. And God comes through on all His promises to Moses.
God performs the miraculous signs through Moses, just as He said He would. The Israelites believe Moses when he tells them God has sent him (Exodus 4:29-31). God “encourages” the Egyptians to release the Israelites, and they are sent on their way with all kinds of riches (Exodus 12:31-36). God comes through, true to His word.
In short (which is funny because this post is so long), Moses nearly misses being a part of a pivotal chapter of world history because he is scared to trust the only One who is completely trustworthy.
I don’t want tha
t to be my story. I don’t want to let fear keep me from being all the Lord wants me to be.