I was chatting with a friend earlier this week about self-awareness. Mostly because I lack it often and also because I think this lacking is a wide-spread epidemic amongst us living in a culture that celebrates, above most things, the promotion of our social-media (read: fabricated) selves.
The story of Moses' interaction with God at the burning bush came up. I've always found this story to be intriguing for a number of reasons but maybe most of all because of the incredible self-awareness Moses displays. And in turn, God's surprising response.
Here's how the story goes. God's people, the Israelites, have been slaves in Egypt for about four hundred years. Understandably, they cry out for rescue. God hears them.
I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey. - Exodus 3v7-8
This is major. This is a story about the God of the cosmos freeing his beloved people from the clutches of an oppressive empire. This is about abolition, liberation, freedom. This is a story so big, it's worthy of a Hans Zimmer soundtrack (and in 1998, DreamWorks made it so).
But Moses feels the moment is too big for him.
When's the last time you felt a moment was too big for you? When's the last time an opportunity was at hand and you responded the way Moses did?
Me? Really? I'm a nobody. (Exodus 3v11)
What if they ask me your name? I don't even know your name. (Exodus 3v13)
What if they don't believe me or listen to me and tell me I'm lying? (Exodus 4v1)
My personal favorite is found in Exodus 4v10: Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue. (Read: Umm, I don't talk good. I didn't talk good before you showed up and I don't talk good now. I don't come up with...what's it called...words...yes, words...I don't come up with words fast enough.)
This is self-awareness at its finest. This isn't false humility or humility for the sake of being humble. This is God-honest, genuine, I-know-myself-all-too-well-and-I-know-this-moment-is-too-big-for-me humility. This is the sort of humility that can only be born out of strong self-awareness.
And listen to God's response:
Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say. - Exodus 4v11-12
OK, so God responds by basically saying, I'm asking you to lead my people out of slavery and you're worried about not being eloquent? You understand that I'm God, right? I made words, mouths, and everything else. I'll tell you what to say.
And even still, Moses responds: Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.
Moses isn't lazy. The moment isn't lost on him. He's been in Egypt. He's seen firsthand the plight and pain of God's people. He knows what's at stake. He's just certain that this has got to be some mistake. Again, his self-awareness can't be shaken. He knows that he can't do this. He can't possibly do this. God becomes angry. Then the LORD's anger burned against Moses.
We would expect that out of his anger God would force Moses to go. Maybe he'll threaten his life or the lives of his loved ones. But none of that. Instead, this is what God says:
What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it. - Exodus 4v14-17
Even in his anger, God honors Moses' self-awareness and responds to it with the support Moses needs so that he can do what God's calling him to do. We live in a world where everyone wants to change it. Literally. We quip, easily and casually...
I want to change the world.
I want to make the world a better place.
I want to make a difference in the world.
Sometimes I wonder if we really know what we're saying, what we're asking for. Changing the world, making it a better place, making a lasting difference in it - I'm not sure any of us is skilled enough, smart enough, committed enough to get it done. The world is a big place and we're really small people. And until we grow self-aware enough to admit as much, not just in the form of meaningless platitudes, but with genuine humility, we won't leave enough room in our small selves for our big God to come and do immeasurably more through us than we could ever do on our own.
God does his greatest work through women and men who've arrived at genuine humility born out of strong self-awareness. I think that God calls us into moments that always feel too big, too audacious, too ridiculous. This also means that God calls us into moments that make us feel too small, too inadequate, too much like there must be some mistake. All of that to say, I think that if the moment at hand doesn't feel that way, there's a chance it might not be God who is calling.
So when God calls, be self-aware. Be honest about what you're incapable of, what you lack, why you shouldn't be the one to do this thing he's asking you to do. Then watch as he does it through you anyway.