Morning Musing: Exodus 2:21-22

“Moses agreed to stay with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. She gave birth to a son whom he named Gershom, for he said, ‘I have been a resident alien in a foreign land.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Have you ever found yourself stuck somewhere you didn’t plan to be and didn’t necessarily want to be? For many of us, that can easily lead to a season of bitterness. We make do because we don’t have any other choice, but we’re not happy about it. And we make sure everyone knows we’re not happy about it too. But what if there’s another perspective on things? Sometimes seeing someone else’s story – like Moses’ here – can give us a glimpse through another lens that can be truly transformative if we’ll let it.

There are a lot of things that can lead to our being in a place we don’t want to be. Maybe we made some bad choices along the way of life and their consequences have forced us into where we are. Certainly someone in prison knows that frustration, but those are hardly the only people. Maybe a moral failure has led to the end of a marriage relationship, but because kids are involved you feel like you can’t go anywhere else. You are trapped in the community where you have to relive the pain of the relational breakdown over and over again.

Perhaps it is someone else’s sin that has resulted in your getting stuck. You are tied to the person and thus are stuck with them. It could be that you are the collateral damage of their sin. They’ve done something foolish, but you’ve been left holding the bag. Or maybe it was simply something like the loss of a job that has resulted in your being forced to move back in with your parents or other relatives when you would much rather be on your own, thank you very much (and they feel the same way!). Again, there are a lot of reasons we can get stuck somewhere we don’t want to be in life.

For Moses, it was his murder of an Egyptian guard that caused him to have to flee for his life from the only home he had ever known. Now he was stuck in a foreign land with no one to help him, no social networks to draw on, no meaningful job prospects, and no chance of going home. He had every opportunity to turn to bitterness and anger. Anger at himself, of course, since the crime was his that got him into this whole mess, but also anger at Pharaoh for his lack of understanding and turning his back on an adopted grandson so quickly. And he could have focused all his bitterness on God. No, God didn’t have anything to do with his mess, but that certainly doesn’t stop us today from getting angry with God when we experience the consequences of our sinful choices.

Yet to his credit, Moses initially doesn’t seem to take this path. Instead, he lays his life on the line to help the people who are now around him. Selflessly serving others is always a good way to begin to move ourselves out of a mess of self-pity and frustration with our circumstances. And, this winds up parlaying into a whole new world of opportunity. After coming to the rescue of the seven daughters of Reuel, the priest of Midian (whether he is a priest of God or not we are never told, but a few small signs point to that as a possibility), he gives his oldest daughter to Moses as his wife and as a means of inviting him to work for him as his chief shepherd. Culturally that seems awful to us, but it made perfect sense at the time.

As we arrive at these two verses, Moses seems to have settled down into his new life in Midian. He now has all the things he lacked when he arrived. He has a family and a job and a wife and a social network and now a son. Yet when his first son arrives, it becomes clear that things aren’t quite as happy as they appear. Moses names his son, Gershom. Names in Hebrew were a big deal. A name was given by parents not just because it sounded good, but because they either wanted to mark something significant about their circumstances at the time, or because they wanted to convey their hopes for what the child’s character and destiny would be. In this case, Gershom is a sound play kind of like we saw back in Amos 7 and 8. It sounds like the words that would express Moses’ sojourn as an alien in a foreign land. In other words, in spite of all Moses has experienced and accomplished now in his new home, he still hasn’t forgotten about the fact that he isn’t where he belongs. He isn’t where he belongs, and he still has a longing to go back there. He wants to be home.

I think there are three things to see here that can help frame our perspective when we are stuck in places we don’t want to be in life in such a way as to keep us moving forward rather than merely getting mired in the frustration and bitterness that might otherwise consume us.

First, that longing we have for home is a natural thing. Just because you don’t want to be where you are in a given moment doesn’t mean there’s anything necessarily wrong with you. We all long for home. Ultimately, that longing is something put in us by God Himself to focus our hearts and minds in the direction of His kingdom where we really belong. Now, too often that ultimate picture of home gets distorted by our circumstances, and we think we most want to be somewhere other than that, but longing for home is natural.

Second, just because we are currently stuck somewhere we don’t want to be in life doesn’t mean we can’t still pursue good in our new place. When the people of Israel had been taken as captives to Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah wrote them a letter in which he gave them the instructions to seek the welfare of their new city. They were to plant themselves where they were so that they could continue to grow and experience the fruits of God’s good work in their lives. When you are somewhere you don’t want to be, the best thing you can do is to make the best of it. Commit yourself to making this new place all that God designed it to be. Invest in the lives of the people who are around you even if those aren’t the ones you would prefer to have around you. Work to advance the kingdom of God into that place so that it can flourish even after you are gone.

Speaking of after you are gone, this brings us to the third thing. When we are sojourning in a foreign land, that season isn’t going to last forever. It’s okay to remember we aren’t where we belong, and that God will one day take us to where we should be. It may be that He does that in this life, and we get back to the place we want to be in the here and now. Or, it may be that God has placed us where we are for a reason, and that our homegoing will be a more eternal one. Either way, when we aren’t where we belong, we won’t be there forever. There will be a day when we look back and marvel at how short was our stay in that foreign place. When we trust ourselves into the hands of the God who is making a home for us, we will one day be home. We can have hope in that and keep moving forward. In the meantime, we continue to learn and grow and take well the lessons God is teaching us in this other place. It just may be that He is preparing us for something big in the days ahead. When the time is right, He’ll make sure we are right where we need to be.

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