Moses ran from Egypt, ran from his family, ran from Pharaoh, ran from his past. Decades had clicked by, four of them. Moses was a different man now, with a wife and a family and a livelihood. Moses had run himself into an entirely different story. The hard truth, however, is that when we run from our stories – when we run from ourselves — what we find whenever we get wherever it is we’re going is simply this: we’re lost.
When the Exodus narrative finds Moses, the Scripture says that he’s “beyond the wilderness.” Another version says he’s made his way to the “far side of the wilderness.” As any man who refuses to stop for directions on a road trip will tell you, there’s lost … and then there’s lost. Moses is lost.
The immediate fact is that he’s taken his flock beyond the boundaries, in need of fresh grass and good water. However, this episode situates the reality of Moses’ life: the man is out in the boonies, a long, long way from home. Where are you Moses? What are you doing?
What I find most remarkable about this tale is the fact that Moses seems quite fine with the state of affairs. Moses is taking care of his family, working his flock. Moses has not ventured into the wild for a pilgrimage or a rigorous spiritual retreat. Moses is not in search of an epiphany; he has not embarked on 40 days of Lenten fasting. Moses wants grass for his sheep.
Churchy folklore suggests that God only shows up to those who are searching vigorously. If we want to hear or see God, says those who supposedly know, then we’ve got to stretch our faith and push our spiritual muscle. We’ve got to repent or fast or give up all we own. We must answer the call to get radical and be willing to head off to a third-world country at the drop of a hat. These are the elements that keep God tapping his fingers, waiting perturbed until we get serious.
But then sometimes God just shows up in a burning bush and scares the living bejeezers out of you. Sometimes, purely uninvited, God finds you in the wild corners while you’re minding your own business and simply doing the best you can to keep your head above water.
The fact is that God comes looking for everybody.