Note: This post was originally written last March, 2015. I was not able to finish the whole article and it spent almost 3 months incubated in my drafts section. This article is both personal and reflective, yet it also has points to ponder upon for the reader. Enjoy!
Last Saturday night, I decided to watch the movie that I’ve downloaded a few weeks ago, “Exodus, gods and kings.” The movie was obviously about how Moses led the people of God, who were then slaves, into “freedom” from the reign of Egypt’s Pharaoh. I was half expecting that the movie would have a slightly different take on from the biblical accounts, and that it would also “fill in the blanks” to stretch the few chapters into a two-hour story. Thus, all throughout the movie, I found myself doing two things:
1. Remembering and referring to biblical texts to differentiate explicitly biblical event from the movie’s deviations and portrayals.
2. Reflecting on the life of Moses
In the movie, Moses was portrayed as a military general, who was best friends with the next-in-line to be Pharaoh, Ramses. Though aware that he was not related by blood to the royal family, he was, for the most part, unaware of his Hebrew origins. Of course, the crux of his dilemma was when he realized who he was, and had to make a decision regarding which side of the fence he will be on. The many deviations from biblical accounts aside, I liked how the humanity of Moses was portrayed, especially when it came to his big decisions (spoiler alert):
1. To save his sister’s life, he admitted to the Pharaoh that he was indeed a Hebrew.
2. To heed the call of God to free his people, he left his comfortable and quiet life with his wife and child, and opposed his best friend.
3. Many times we could see Moses arguing with God (or His messenger, portrayed as an 11-year old boy), finding it difficult to accept what He wants to happen.
Though I was contemplating about my life thus far until the point of falling asleep, it appeared as if God wanted me to continue the contemplation the next day. It was the fifth Sunday, which means our senior pastor would be preaching in our (Tagalog) service. It was also Baccalaureate Sunday, so the message was topical and was meant for those who were about to join the work force after finishing either their secondary or tertiary education.
The passage (Provervbs 3:5-6) was just two verses, a welcome deviation compared to our past few months of tackling up to two chapters at a time of the not-so-easy to understand book of Revelation:
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.[a]
Hooray for (occasional) topical preaching! If I were to paraphrase our pastor’s simple outline, it would have to be that there are four major things or life decisions that one has to think about, and these are: career, ministry, location, and lifetime partner. These are of course, not mutually exclusive, though we could also not actually say that one is more important than the other. I personally think that any one of these can and will affect your decision regarding the other three, and that, on a case to case basis, one of these may have larger bearings than the others. Of course, all of the decisions we need to make need to be properly consulted with and approved by God. So, if I were to illustrate:
Now, let’s look at these one by one:
11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. – 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
As productive members of both the heavenly and earthly kingdom, we must contribute to the betterment of this planet’s future. For most people, the amount of take-home pay would decide what type of work they are going to do. For others, perhaps they are limited by their available skill sets. For others still, their circumstances might limit their choices (need to support relatives, etc.). Biblically, the bare minimum is that you are doing something useful, and that as a result, you are not “free-loading” on anyone. Of course, your job should also not adversely affect your relationship with God
He had three distinct career changes in his life: He started out as an Egyptian noble. Then, he became a fugitive turned low profile shepherd and family man. Finally, he became a leader and mediator between God and His people. The first career change was brought about by circumstances, the next by faith and obedience.
While I spent two years working in the industry, The bulk of my life was spent on teaching-related jobs. While I enjoy teaching others, there is no certainty of job security, as evidenced by the fast turnover rate that I have been observing. Furthermore, teaching while studying at the same time has forced most of us teachers to adapt our lifestyles to “survive”. For now, the other three categories have yielded to career. In the long run though, the pace must become sustainable, otherwise, things will start to become unhealthy. In this regard, if sustainability is next to impossible, I must, like Moses, be open to a mid-life career change, knowing I should not put my hope on the continuity of always having a job.
What are you doing “for a living”? How important is your career to you right now? How does it affect your relationship with God?
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. – 1 Corinthians 12:7
Each follower of Jesus has been commanded to “go and make disciples of all nations.” In this regard, we are like people on a team, each one with a specific role to do in accomplishing our grand goal. Using these gifts are not just in the context of “the church”. What we do for God from Monday to Saturday is equally important. Even living your life filled with joy is service to God (not that it’s always easy to do).
These tasks might change through time, but at no time are we supposed to be doing nothing regarding God’s command. We are on call, 24/7. We are not indispensable in God’s army, but nonetheless God has given us the opportunity to work with him.
Perhaps it was not until the burning bush incident that he started thinking about what God wants him to do. Ill-equipped as he thinks he is, it was his availability and obedience, amidst clear reluctance, that allowed God to accomplish so many things through him. Doing miracles, shepherding and arbitrating an unruly bunch of ex-slaves – these were just some of the things God assigned specifically for Moses to do.
The spiritual gifts inventory survey that I answered about a decade ago listed my top three gifts as: discernment, teaching, and helps/services. Admittedly, I started dropping some responsibilities, and declining requests from people to help the local church in certain ways ever since I started teaching and studying. Within the church, I have kept only worship service related duties such as song leading, occasional worship leading, and the weekly physical set up of the church’s audio-visuals. Outside, perhaps its mostly through providing financial and prayer support to various individuals and organizations.
I keep telling myself that after I finish my masters degree, things will more or less be back to normal. This writing “ministry”, which I am struggling to uphold, I think has the potential to reach more people one day in ways that I currently cannot imagine. Yet now is not yet the time to “rock the boat”.
What gifts and skills do you have that can be used in God’s service? How is your relationship with Him? How is your relationship with the people around you? Is there a very specific “thing” that God wants you to do at this point in your life?
We human beings are not omnipresent. We cannot teleport or be in two places at once. Even the lord Jesus, on his time here on earth, was limited by where his feet could take him. Where (geographically) we spend our lives is therefore an important factor. For pioneering missionaries, the clearest thing for them was to know where they would serve. If we must make disciples of “all nations”, then that would mean some of us will have to go to other “nations” or ethno-lingustic group which may exist outside or geographical locale.
He was in Egypt because he was born there, but divine intervention led him to growing up in the posh palace grounds. Circumstances caused him to flee and settle down in the faraway lands of Midian. Ultimately, God led him back to Egypt, only to take him and the Hebrew people into a 40-year desert tour, and finally see the promised land from afar.
I have worked in Laguna for over two years. During that time, try as I may to build roots there, I ended up still going home on weekends (sometimes, also during week nights) and helping out in our church in Quezon City. As career and location are often tied up together, I do expect myself to still be bound to Quezon City, perhaps until God deems otherwise. While being prayed for the other day, some brothers mentioned the strategic importance of (us) being in Quezon City, as they saw many things in the area that needed “redemption.”
John Piper once said that “Missions exist where worship doesn’t.” Is there a specific place where God is calling you to right now? Are you being uprooted from your comfort zone to go to a certain place? Are you being drawn to a location where you think your skills will be “needed” more?
4. Lifetime Partner
18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)
Adam without Eve was the first thing God declared to be “not good”. Marriage is the norm, rather than the exception, in the same way that a parent normally does not think about whether or not to send his/her child to school. That being said, finding your lifetime partner is much harder than choosing a school or the “right” course to take for college.
There are many things that are uncertain about Moses’ love life. Some said he may have had at least two wives. We know at least that he married Zipporah, daughter of Jethro, the priest of Midian. In a time of arranged marriages, there was not really much to consider from the point of view of those tying the knot. For the most part, it was the parents who did the pairing.
In the movie, perhaps as added dramatic angle, Moses was portrayed as leaving his wife and child in Midian while he went on a mission to rescue the Hebrews in Egypt. Of course, after the exodus, he was reunited with his family.
Career is often one of the reasons for the delay in marriage or courtship in today’s day and age. I’m turning 29 and people are saying I am still young. That’s a bit hard to imagine since my mom was already married for 10 years, and already had 4 children, when she was 29. While it is highly likely for me to be single until the day I get my masters degree, people are suggesting I forego marriage for a PhD as well.
Unlike during Moses’ time, marriage nowadays seem to be more complicated. There’s the issue of being the right person, finding the right person, and of course, executing plans at the right time. All of these must be aligned if you want to avoid unnecessary disasters. As for “who” it will be, All possible choices are equally uncertain at the moment, and of course, there is the option of prolonged halamanization.
Assess yourself. Do you think you are emotionally and spiritually mature to enter into a relationship? What dreams do you intend to share with your future special someone? How are your relationships with those of the opposite sex inside the Christendom? Is there anyone seems to stand out positively?
Moses received a call from God. That call dictated what he would do and where he would be at what point in time (including wandering in the desert). From a prince, he became a fugitive, then, a peaceful shepherd, and then finally, a full fledged rebel leader. At one point, he met his wife and extended family. In the end, he served his purpose and passed the work that God has started through him to Joshua.
Each one of us will have a different story, and only God knows what’s in store. It maybe boring from start to finish, or it could be the stuff of novels. Whether it be our career, ministry, residence, or future spouse, we need to seek God’s voice and guidance. I believe that in doing so, we will be living life without regrets.