Do I get to hear from God too?
Initially, I disagreed with the class’ conclusions that Exodus 3-4 were about agency, empowerment, collaboration, and God’s mentoring and coaching of Moses.
No, I thought: these were chapters about God’s patient instruction and willingness to develop Moses as a leader, but Aaron was definitely God’s second-best solution and less preferred option.
No, collaboration wasn’t God’s intention. He only offered it after he got angry with Moses! Moses should have been stronger, more courageous, more willing to take up God’s call on his own. God hadn’t empowered or mentored Moses enough!
No, I felt: this isn’t about human agency and getting to choose—God is the one choosing Moses and telling him word for word, step by step, sign by sign, exactly what to say, do, demonstrate. We should all be so lucky to have such clear directives from God!
Underneath the mental layer of reading Exodus 3-4 the way I’ve always read it and having that be challenged – there was this whole other personal and emotional dimension because of my back story. I’d just come from a day of reflecting on my husband’s upcoming graduation from his PhD program and sorting through our next steps. Our plan: John would apply to jobs all over the US, then John would choose. Once we knew where we’d be, I’d find something. John was the primary one with agency and choice. I, out of the desire to prioritize his career and maximize his job opportunities, would go second.
Resentment, perhaps unsurprisingly, had been building: where did this leave me? Why was my career categorically second? Could I trust that John would pick a place where I could find something more than just decent or adequate, but something I actually wanted? What did I actually want, when it came time for me to choose?
In the text, all I could see was my own situation: I’m identifying with Zipporah – not Moses. Moses gets to see the burning bush, take off his shoes in God’s presence, hear his audible voice, and receive very detailed instructions about what’s to come. His mission is clear – and it’s a mission! Zipporah has to pack up the two kids and follow. Moses gets to go home, in spite of the fact that his “home” is complex and nowhere exactly; Zipporah has to leave home! She has her father, six sisters, and probably loves her home of Midian!
Marcus and Nussbaum have made cogent arguments for emotion informing our decision-making, emotion being legitimate judgments about value – emotion and not necessarily reason revealing the truth of a situation. But I don’t like these emotions I feel during class: I don’t want to disagree, be resentful, tear up with frustration and confusion while talking to Bernie after class. I chose to let John go first, after all, out of love. But where does this leave me? I don’t like this situation. This is the main leadership challenge I face this spring.
So I go home that night and we talk. I find passages to make sense of Zipporah’s strange “bridegroom of blood” episode. We sit down to dream with blank paper and red/pink pens, side by side. We silently draw up our own categories to fill. John has 5: short-term wishes, possible careers, priorities, fulfilling ideas, and possible locations. I have 6: want, need, “should” want, kind of interested in, “I (unhelpfully) feel obligated to,” and wacky/crazy. And I sketch the US cities he’s mentioned in recent months, with the different opportunities, seminaries, and possible mentors I’ve stored in the back of my head. We’re too tired at the end to share what we’ve written, but we do the next night. And we make a new strategy: we’ll look into each city together, Boston included. We’ll keep remembering we love each other and are so grateful to God to be married. Shared agency and collaboration, empowered together, mentored and coached by God.
February 9, 2011