Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Safe Haven

Pursued by both fear and failure, he climbed over the next hill (was there no end to this wilderness?), and saw, to his great relief, that there was a well up ahead. Not till this moment had he dared admit to himself just how tired and thirsty he felt. Speed had been the imperative, to get out of Egypt before Pharaoh’s soldiers caught up with him. But they wouldn’t follow him here. He was far enough from the border’s now, even by the standards of his own fear, to know that no pursuit would follow him this far. Besides, by tomorrow, someone else would have claimed the focus of Pharaoh’s anger, and he would be forgotten about unless he drew someone’s attention to his existence. He wondered how, if at all, his own family would remember him? With his privileged upbringing in the palace, he had never really been one of them. His own riches and comfort had been a source of awkwardness whenever he visited them. He had wanted so badly to prove that he was one of them, that he cared. He had wanted to use his privilege to help his own people in their terrible bondage, but all he had succeeded in was a mean little murder and his own subsequent flight. He down near the well, in what shade he could find, and surrendered to his despondency.

He was startled into awareness by the sound of some young women bringing their flocks to be watered. For a moment he thought of revealing himself to them, but he was unsure of his reception, and stayed where he was. But no sooner had they settled to their task, drawing up water for the troughs the animals drank from than another group of shepherds turned up and drove them back, pushing them out of the way so that they could go first. The empty wilderness was becoming a very busy place!

This was too much for Moses! The same sense of justice which had got him into trouble in Egypt compelled him forward in the girls’ defence. The shepherds, who had been happy to bully a group of women, subsided quickly at the sight of one angry man, and let the delighted women complete their task, with his assistance. Then, while the girls returned to their father’s house, Moses sat down again and wondered which way he should go next.

But then the girls returned to invite him back to their home. Their father welcomed him with gladness, and, in the fullness of time, gave him one of his daughters in marriage. Moses had found a safe haven, a place where he could live and raise a family, telling himself that it was foolishness to expect to be something more than other men. He did not know then that after forty years he would be summoned back from these desert places that were breaking and remaking him, to walk back into the palace of a new Pharaoh, and to be caught up in a far more glorious unfolding of his people’s liberation and redemption than any he could have imagined on his own.

Monday, October 13, 2014


I taste again my yesterdays
In the thin-lipped silence
Of the scream that dares not speak.

Is this why I so love thunder?

Yesterdays’ flavour
Was the flavour of stale crumbs,
Half-worm in the tomato,
My shriek all out of place.

True, there were dramas,
Improbable teacup storms,
And I the bridge laid down to harmony –
As if peace were my gift!

But mostly silence:
A grey, tight lid slammed down across our days,
To hide all things,
And hide them from ourselves.

When clarity came
It shattered teacups
Till the storms all drained away:
The monster in the depths laid bare

Shrinking before the light.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Seeing it differently

He had always known that his friends were wrong, but now he knew that, though his first judgement had been right, it had been right for the wrong reasons. He had been seeing the whole situation through the lens of his own righteousness, his own non-deserving of punishment. It shocked him – no, totally unmanned him – to realise that a man could be right for the exact wrong reasons, and that a man could seek God earnestly all his days, and earnestly strive to be pleasing to Him, and fulfil all His commands, and yet … and yet … totally misconstrue who God was and what it meant to serve and worship Him.
He had always been a careful man, a scrupulous man, the very definition of ‘God-fearing’. Only now could he see the irony of it all: that he had feared God in the wrong way, for the wrong reasons, precisely because he had cut his image of God from the cloth of his own being, that he, who had sought in all things to walk in excruciating humility so as to cause no affront by effrontery, had had the ridiculous arrogance to imagine that his human understanding could define all that God was!

It was strange though, wasn’t it, that he could see the ridiculous flaws in the understanding of those friends who had sought so hard to correct his theology and show him the error of his thinking, yet could not see the inadequacy of his own thinking. The same moral fearfulness that had always made him so conscientious had served as his defence against their accusations – had he not always searched his heart and life for hidden sin, had he not always made pre-emptive sacrifices against any possible sin of his children? And now, in his hour of tragedy, when they could find no better comfort to bring him than their blazing certainty that he must have committed some grave sin for God to punish him so severely, he knew they must be wrong. But their questions only added to his torment, and his abiding sense of injustice.

Then the Lord came, fierce and terrible in the mighty storm, and spoke the words that shattered, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Have you given orders to the morning? Have the gates of death been shown to you? What is the way to the abode of light?” On and on the relentless questions came, until he no longer sought to protect himself from them, but instead was lifted into the grand vision, the vast glory of God’s purpose and design. How had he ever imagined that his words were enough? It was not that they were wrong, it was that they were so woefully inadequate, because his concept of God, a rumour and a theory, was so much less than even the edge of the wonderful reality.

There was only one possible, trembling reply, “I had heard of you with the hearing of my ears, but now my eyes see you, and I repent in dust and ashes.”

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Scapegoat

The living breath is ragged in his throat,
His legs are tense, not knowing where to run,
Or which way fear will come. His strength is spent
And yet his walking death is scarce begun.

Driven away from safe familiar fields
Driven away from any shepherd’s care
No more sweet grass is offered to his lips
He must find food where all is scant and bare.

This is the realm of jackal and of owl
The haunting absences, the empty sere,
A desolation fully destitute
Where every stone and rock will whisper “fear…”

Driven, unshriven, under a fierce sky,
Lost in a land that breathes no kindliness,
How can he know – poor, dumb and suffering beast –

That God’s own self shall walk this wilderness?