Moses gripped his walking stick and scraped it into the rocky slope, pushing himself up the ledge. Not bad for an eighty year old. Sheep up ahead bleated.
Was that smoke?
No longer did he hold any illusions of royalty or heroics. Forty years tracking ornery, transient sheep had shown him he was an okay shepherd. Pharaoh material? Flush for shame. Best watch his step; sheep weren't particular where they messed.
Still, he remembered the whistle of the whip as it sliced into flesh of his brethren, the chosen of God. Had God seen? Could He hear those cries?
Up ahead. That fire! What...?
God had seen. God had heard. And God wasn't finished with Moses.
"What is that in thine hand?"
"Cast it on the ground."
What must Moses have thought? When the one thing he had to defend himself turned into a snake? That could bite him?
Betrayal? Confusion? Or did he breathe deep and look to the One in the bush who had always been the One who really protected him, even as a babe in the bulrush basket?
What is that in my hand?
What am I holding onto for dear life, certain this is THE THING I've needed to make all my dreams come true? My marriage? My family? My home? My friends? My social media following? My creative endeavors? My podcast?
Whatever I count on to make me worthy, apart from Jesus Christ, has the potential to become the very thing I'm afraid of.
My writing, which I'm tempted to think makes me important, can turn into a weapon against me. Like a snake whispering sweet nothings, it can fill my head with pride that poisons me as I bite the lie I'm some gift to mankind. Or it can be a vehicle allowing me to spew misinformation when I'm confused.
My graphic design, which I think has the ability to provide me with money God has already promised to provide, can consume my thoughts and make me ignore my family as I go to ridiculous lengths to make a buck that so easily flies.
Or my marriage, which I might trust to protect me from loneliness, can turn into a weapon against me. When I depend on "the perfect marriage" to equal "I'm okay," I disregard my most precious human relationship because, of course, "if he's not perfect, I can't be okay."
And surprise, surprise. Nobody's perfect. Not even Mr. Right. (Although you're mighty close to perfect, David.)
Or my friendships. When I depend on my friends to make me feel worthy, I morph from being an understanding companion into a needy "why didn't you call me?" whinybaby. My friends are gifts, but Jesus is the only friend who's able to stick closer than a brother. The only one who laid down His life to take the blame, shame, and punishment for my misdeeds.
To expect anyone else to be Jesus is to disdain Him and disgust those I'm trying to worship.
So God has given me these wonderful gifts in my hand. My marriage. My friends. My talents. My skills. Knowing that these gifts can be used against me tempts me to grip that whatever-it-is in my hand tighter. Hold it back. Don't let anything happen to it.
That blog post may not get written, but at least if I haven't written anything I haven't made any mistakes.
My home may be chaos, but if I ignore it I won't get angry when I clean it and it's dirty in thirty minutes.
That new sketch pad may still be blank, but at least I haven't revealed how imperfect my drawing skills are.
That dream business may still be just a dream, but at least I haven't embarrassed myself by failing.
My marriage may be silent, but at least I haven't risked my pride by opening up.
My friend may not have heard from me in three years, but at least the last time we spoke we were on good terms. Nothing ventured, nothing lost, right?...Right?
That child may be untaught, but at least I haven't warped him. Apps can teach them better than I can anyway. Right? Right? (guilty facepalm)
Did Moses grip his staff extra hard when God told him to take off his shoes in the desert? After all, there could be snakes.
But he obeyed. And the rod turned into a snake. And what did God say?
Actually, "Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail."
By the tail.
Defy all logic, and take it by the tail.
The snake did not bite him. God controlled the power of the snake. It would return again to gobble the evil magicians' snakes.
Safety is of the Lord. Not in the power of the stick.
Or whatever it is in my hand. Or yours.
Let's wield our gifts with confidence as God directs us. Yes, there's danger in using our gifts. But there's no terror. Jesus, the one who "created all things, and by Him all things consist," created whatever's in my hand. He controls the end of the story, and He loves me. He is my righteousness. He is what makes me worthy. Not my wielding of the gifts He gave me to hold in my hand.
The One who protects me is not in my hand.
I am in His.
Thanks to Jesus.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one.