That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. The sweaty palms. The racing heart. The brain working on overdrive. Trying to process what you just did and what’s next. The panicked escape and plans to run from your greatest mistake. You’ve been caught. Nowhere to turn. Nowhere to hide. They’re after you. They want justice. They want you. What do you do?
Flee. Run. Escape.
This is the exact response Moses takes in Exodus 2. Born a Hebrew, born into slavery, born in a time of fear. Through a weird turn of events, Moses is raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter. He is raised in a life of royalty and luxury compared to the forced labor his people endure. One day he goes out to observe the life of his people, the Hebrews. From his royal view, he watches an Egyptian hit one the Hebrews. Enraged, Moses snaps to the point of killing the Egyptian. He panics and does the only thing he can think of, hide the Egyptian’s body in the sand! Unsure what to do, he runs away hoping it will remain a secret.
The next day, he is called out by two Hebrew workers who witnessed the murder. Later, Pharoah hears about this and is out to kill Moses. Moses is not safe with his royal family or the Hebrew people. Nowhere to turn, he runs to the land of Midian. Confused and lost, afraid and ashamed, he’s in the midst of a major identity crisis.
On some level, we can relate to Moses. We’ve probably lived in shame and fear. We’ve lived with regret. We’ve run from our past. We’ve felt out of place. Maybe we’ve wrestled an identity crisis where we question everything about our past and future.
In the midst of this identity crisis, Moses is met with provision and grace. There is a moment of grace, a gift, where he acts from the core of who he is. He protects and serves. He protects Jethro’s daughters by rescuing them from shepherds who try to drive them away. Then, he serves the daughters by helping water their flocks. It’s the one thing he can do at that moment that seems right and true.
He’s a man of justice and he cares for others. His actions speak louder than his words. The daughters thank him and return home. Jethro, their father, asks why on earth they did not bring the man back with them! In a culture of hospitality, this seems the perfect way to show thanks to a stranger who helped his daughters. Moses took one brave moment to serve these daughters, these strangers, and he ended up welcomed into a family that would unendingly serve him.
We don’t get all of the details of Moses as he spends the next 40 years in Midian but we do learn a few ways God provides. Jethro gives his daughter to Moses in marriage. A new family. Jethro brings Moses into the family business to shepherd his flocks. A new job with growing leadership skills. Moses becomes a father several times over. A new role and purpose.
Somewhere in all of this, I imagine Moses finds a new identity. The distance from his royal family and the enslaved Hebrew people allow for clarity. The memories of these two worlds don’t leave him. They’re ingrained in his DNA. However, the distance, the silence from the daily intake of these two worlds, gives his brain time to process and his heart to heal.
When the time is right, when his heart has been provided for in just the right ways, when he has been filled by the daily ministry of Jethro and his family, God calls Moses to move. The provisions have nourished his body, soul, and mind. The gifts of newness have restored a trust in him.
However, just when this new identity falls into a comfortable rhythm God reawakens the old fears, shame, and guilt. Moses must face his past. Yet this time, he is reassured his identity is not in royalty, or slavery, or the next new person or place. His identity is in God. Only God. Always God.
God calls him to do the impossible: set the Hebrews free. Over the next year, Moses comes face to face with every past fear that triggered him to leave the first time. He finds himself doing hard things, and he does them because he is prepared. He has taken time to grieve his past, yet take new risks. This prepares him for a future of facing fears that lead to freedom.
The doubt is still there every step of the way. He even begs God for this job to not be his. Yet, this is what is set before him. God uses those past 40 years to reassure Moses He is who He says He is. He is trustworthy. He is a God of provision. He is a God of grace. He is God. He is.
You may not have killed a person. You may not be running from a life or death mistake. You may not have escaped to another city, family, or life. Or maybe you have? Either way, you can probably attest to the truth that God prepares us for what’s next.
In this process, we doubt He is who He says He is. We beg God to use someone else. We beg Him to give us a different story, anything but the one we’re living. We want to remain comfortable. We want to stay as far from our painful past as we can. Yet, God reassures us He is who He says He is. He is trustworthy. He is a God of provision. He is a God of grace. He is God. He is.
Moses may have escaped to Midian to get away. Little did he know, he was finding his way.
I don’t know where you are on this journey of escape and healing. I want to reassure us, myself included, we can keep trusting He is who He says He is. We must keep doing the hard things put in front of us. We must keep discovering our identity in God, and not a person, place, or situation. When we bravely move forward in this identity it opens up both personal and public freedom for those around us.
So do what you must as you escape, but know God will meet you with provision and grace. If you take the time to let this minister to your soul, freedom is just past the fear and pain. Freedom is on the horizon. Can you see it? Do you dare to believe it?