After years of denying his authentic identity, Moses could no longer turn a blind eye to the reality before him.
One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and saw their forced labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kinsfolk. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. Then Moses was afraid and fled from Pharaoh.
I have to say I am feeling a bit sorry for Moses at this point in the story. I mean, he is trying to live in two worlds without quite fitting into either one. Taken from his Hebrew family at an early age and thrust into the Pharaoh’s home, he wouldn’t be trusted by the Hebrew people and was probably rejected by the Egyptian people, no matter how much influence the Princess’ status bought him. I wonder if it wasn’t some deep need for authentic connection that drove him to protect his kinsmen in such a drastic way. Whatever it was, it drove Moses to commit murder and banished him into the wilderness.
The wilderness - barren, desolate and sparse. Moses wandered in an arid but
breathtakingly beautiful landscape for days on end with only himself and maybe a camel for company. Have you ever been in a desert? – no planes, trains or automobiles, no cell phone towers for electronic gadgets, no distractions.
I wonder what that time in the desert must have been like for Moses. Moses certainly had lots and lots of time to think in the silence of the desert. There wasn’t anything to get in the way of the inner arguments and replaying of hurts, insults and perceived slights. It kind of makes me think about that line from the first Shrek movie where Shrek tries to explain to the donkey that there is more to an ogre than meets the eye, “Ogres are like onions – they have layers.” Just like Shrek, the real Moses was buried under layers of false identity and cultural expectations, each carrying with it a particular voice in his mind. Slowly, over time, each voice demanded to be heard and understood before he could let it go and make room for the next one. What memories arose for Moses in that stillness? What helped him peel
off the layers of his Egyptian-imposed identities? At what point did he begin to remember who he really was: a beloved child of God? When did the space in his heart clear out enough for God’s quiet voice to be heard?
I don’t know what it was like for Moses, but I do know that for me it was horrible. It took years and years of hard, honest looking, deep listening, buckets of tears, and tremendous grace that looked like courage to face all that I thought I was, to realize that who I thought I was wasn’t who I really was at all and to be willing to get to know the person I was meant to be. Late in his life, Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung (1875 – 1961) wrote, “In my case Pilgrim’s Progress consisted in my having to climb down a thousand ladders until I could reach out my hand to the little clod of earth that I am.” Jung, a supposed unbeliever, knew that any authentic God experience takes a lot of humble, honest, and patient seeking.
This is the work Moses had to do to be able to hear God’s call. I believe that in those forty years in the desert, Moses re-acquainted himself with his Hebrew roots and finally embraced his true identity. I believe that in my desert experience, I finally got in touch with my authentic self. Only then, could I hear and respond to God’s call. Only then was I, like Moses, ready to approach the burning bush.