- Religion and Philosophy
God, the Helicopter Parent
Exodus 33:12-23: What's In It For Me?
Let's begin by looking at the passage. Contextually, we know this is about Moses, leader of the children of Israel, talking to God, seeking help as he did so many times. He was trying to fulfill his mission, despite the difficulties he experienced. But for us, this cannot be viewed as 'just another Moses versus the grumbling people' story. When approaching Scripture, we sometimes need to ask: what's in it for me? In Exodus 33:12-23, there is purpose and clarity, but also encouragement for us.
Moses has a mission. God has instructed Moses to escort the Israelites to the 'land of milk and honey.' Moses has determined that the task will be difficult, and he refuses to go alone. "God," he says, "if this is what being favored looks like, I'm not sure I want it." Moses asks God to give him understanding. He refuses to go forward without God. Wow! What would our lives be like if we refused to move forward without God?
"If indeed I enjoy your favour, please show me your ways, so that I understand you and continue to enjoy your favour; consider too that this nation is your people."(Exodus 33:13 NJB)
Not only does Moses implore God to accompany him on his mission, but he also reminds God of what that mission is really all about. Remember when I said that this passage included purpose and clarity for us? Well, here it is. For years, many of us have been taught to erroneously identify with the grumbling Israelites. Wrong, wrong, wrong! We must identify with Moses at some point in our walk. We were liberated to lead. We all have a mission, and that mission is not really about us. If we have come to know the Love of the Divine Mystery that I call God, then we owe it to the world to 'be about the Father's business.' For whatever reason, we have found "favor," but with that favor comes responsibility. It does not include a new car or a non-stop happiness ride. But fortunately, there is a peace that surpasses all possible understanding, on some days.
To Whom Much Is Given, Much Giving Is Required
I recently went to the doctor's office to pick up some paperwork. The office is on the tenth floor. I got the papers, left the office and proceeded to the elevator. It stopped a couple of floors down, and this little elderly lady with a magazine cart made her way inside. "I hope I get where I'm going," she said. She pushed her cart inside and adjusted a few of the magazines on top. "This is kind of heavy. Yeah, we volunteer, and we take these and give them out to all the different departments." We got to her floor; the door opened. "I better get moving before I get stuck. I hope I get where I'm going." She giggled to herself and moved quickly out of the elevator and down the hall. And I was left to ponder her words: "I hope I get where I'm going." The incident happened in the midst of preparing this sermon, so my mind immediately went back to Moses and his mission. This little lady was on a mission. She had determined that it was worthwhile, but it was also "heavy." She was elderly, but physically able and spry. Although pushing the cart was burdensome, she had been 'favored' with the responsibility. She had a purpose. She was trying to get some place.
For me, growing up in a single family home, we were poor but not impoverished. I had more than many. I had a sure home; I was not sent to live here and there and everywhere. I knew who my parents were and I knew my mother was going to be there. I was also given the gift of a joyful countenance and music. Both of these are to be used for the edification of others. Sometimes, I'm like the little lady in the elevator, not just saying, but almost crying: "I hope I get where I'm going." But it is in these difficult times that I recall Mary and her conversation with the angel in Luke. Mary wonders how she will bear the Savior of the world. The angel says: "the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow." (Luke 1:35 NJB) At the close of the conversation, the angel reminds Mary that "nothing is impossible to God." Some translations read: "For nothing will be impossible with God." (Luke 1:37 NRSV) If we are to live out purposed lives, bearing the responsibility that comes with such favor, we must remember the word 'with.' Going 'with' God was the imperative for Moses, and so it is for us.
God: Best Helicopter Parent Ever
Moses is saying "if I'm so favored, you have to go with me, walk with me, talk with me, accompany me and your people." Remember, God, you called me to heal the nations through songs, You called me to make a difference by working in a shelter. You sent me to a village to build wells. You gave me the gift to teach. You favored me with a mission for You, God. I'm trying to make you proud, but I can't do it without You. Show me something, God. Moses, is pleading just as we do. And God answers. As we walk out our various missions in life, we must know that just as God promised Moses that God would go with him and give him rest, God has given us the same guarantee. In the faith community, we gather together to edify one another, to support one another and to help shoulder heavy loads. But all the while, we need to know that God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is hovering over us. God is hovering like the most attentive helicopter parent that ever was.
We have a huge responsibility, like Moses, and we want to handle it well. We want people to look at us and say: look at what God is doing. Look at the healing that's happening. Look at the hungry who are being fed, the thirsty who are receiving drink, the naked being clothed, the imprisoned being set free. Look at the end of injustice, poverty and disease. Look at what God is doing through God's favored people, the people who have decided to shoulder the responsibility of real ministry in the world while God hovers in His Holy Ghost helicopter!