Forty-eight years plus 2 days ago, this life of mine began. (I originally started writing this several days ago, so it’s +5 days now. )
My birthday frequently makes me feel a bit reflective. This year, for some reason, I’ve been feeling my age. I’m almost 50. That’s . . . not young anymore. That’s grand-mother age. That’s officially “old maid” territory. *sigh* :-s
I’ve also been thinking a lot about my mom at this age. For some reason considering my mom at oh, say 28 years old, doesn’t have much of an impact on me. That’s in long-ago memories when mom was always there, and not necessarily a separate person from me. But mom at 48 is my “recent past”, in my adult memories. I was a year away from starting my personal venture into yuppy-dom when my mom was the age I am now.
At 48 years old, Mom had a daughter in her 4th year of college and one in her 3rd, a son in his senior year of high school and one finishing up junior high. She’d graduated from college and a diploma nursing school, working in one of those “newfangled” Intensive Care Units for a year while her fiancee finished college. She’d gotten married and for her honeymoon moved half-way across the country to train with a ministry that didn’t house married couples together (!). They decided that ministry wasn’t an open door for them, by the way.
When I was born, she was a pastor’s wife. She started her career as a missionary and missionary’s wife with a 1 year old and a 3 month old. She’d birthed her two youngest in overseas hospitals. She’d taught English classes and Sunday schools and been a youth director for national youth. She home schooled her daughters. She’d helped create and start a medical center and an English speaking Christian grade school in two separate countries. She’d worked to support her husband through seminary (and 3 kids through a private Christian school, now that I think about it). She’d been team treasurer on the mission field, housed and hosted many visitors and groups from the USA and developed a reputation for being a wonderful hostess, being unendingly creative and a wonderful cook!
I was really struggling as I thought about all my mom had accomplished at my age. What is my life, compared to that? What has my life amounted to compared to most people my age? In many ways, it often feels as though my life came to a standstill before I turned 28. In actual fact, I was 26 when I hit the wall of CFIDS (Chronic Immune Dysfunction Syndrome; I’ll share about my journey with CFIDS another time, probably many other times ). From that point on, my life has been much less than I ever anticipated; much less than I had ever planned. All of my big dreams as I looked forward to the bright horizon of my life “beyond college” and “once I was done getting ready to live life” . . . frozen in time.
That day, on my birthday, the Lord blessed me in two distinct ways as I ruminated on these thoughts. Firstly, I opened the birthday card from my Mom and Pop . . . and ended up in tears. Let me share with you a few of their words that encouraged me at just the time I needed to hear these specific things:
“From the very beginning we knew that God’s plan for you was not just for an ordinary life.” (I would have been happy with an ordinary life, Lord.)
“As you celebrate another year of life we pray that you will find great joy in discovering His plan for each day [emphasis mine].”
“. . . you are greatly loved and treasured . . .”
I so much needed those words at just that time, and the Lord knew just the right time to deliver them to me. Words of appreciation, maybe seemingly so ordinary and mundane, or unadorned; maybe thought to be worn and over-used, can be such jewels in someone’s life at just the times the Lord knows they are needed. Speak out loud those “warm fuzzy feelings” to the people around you. You have no idea the balm it may be to an unseen heartache!
The Lord also spoke in a special way to my heart and my mournful thoughts in His compassionate and loving care later in the day, by causing me to think about Moses.
Moses, Prince of Egypt.
Well, he didn’t start out that way! hehe He started out, humanly speaking, earmarked for the slaughterhouse. But God intervened and placed him in the lap of luxury, raised as the princess’ son. He was trained up and curried and “bent” to be Egyptian royalty. I don’t know if this was true of the Pharaoh at the time of Moses, but remember that for many hundreds of years, the Egyptian Pharaohs were considered directly descended from the Sun god. This was the environment, the expectations, the “world view” in which Moses was raised; this was what he grew up to expect. For the first 40 years of his life! (give or take a few before he was weaned) He had grand expectations for himself, and of himself. We can see this just from the biblical account of how he conducted himself – and tried to direct the conduct of those around him – in those events that led to the sudden change in his situation. He hit the wall, too – the wall of being an outcast.
And for the next FORTY years of his life, he lived the *exact* opposite of all that he’d grown up to know, all that he’d anticipated, all that he’d trained for. He was an outlaw and an outcast in the wilderness. He’d gone from being among the highest in the land in one of the most powerful nations of the world; to scraping out an existence in the desert. Not only that, but he’d gone from being royalty, to herding sheep! Egyptians despised herdsmen; they were the lowest of the low in Egyptian society. And there Moses was – in the ultimate humiliation, for what would amount to a full half of his lifetime by the time God called him out of it.
Scripture doesn’t tell us this, but I have to think that Moses must have spent time wondering at and pondering the apparent fickleness of Providence, that would grace him with such luxury and honor in the first 40 years of his life, with all the apparent advantages and useful platforms from which to influence for good and make a difference for his kinsmen, the Jewish slaves (for remember, this was part of the problem in the first place; he knew this). Maybe there was anger and grief and depression too. (We know he had a temper; it ultimately banned him from entering the Promised Land.) I’m sure he went through many, many permutations of any number of mindsets and thoughts in the hours upon hours that composed 40 years of herding sheep in the desert.
From Moses’ point of view, there was the uselessness of the first part of his life, and all the dead dreams of being “the one” to rescue his fellow Israelites. As far as he was concerned; where he was and what he was doing now was all that his life would ever amount to after that. He was married, he had sons, he raised sheep, and kept his nose clean on the backside of the desert. I wonder how much time he even spent contemplating Yahweh, since he’d married a pagan woman.
But from God’s perspective, these first 2 stages of Moses’ life were merely preparation and training for the GRANDE FINALE of the last 40+ years of his life!
In his first 40 years in Egypt, Moses had been trained in skills of leadership, given a formal education, learned diplomacy and foreign affairs, and grew familiar with the ways of court life.
In his second 40 years, he was refined in the desert school to learn humility and life at the ground floor level. Don’t forget, he learned that humbleness for which God recognized him, somewhere other than the Egyptian court. He learned the secrets of reading the land, of what it took to live off the land, of understanding what livestock (particularly sheep) need to live, and how those who live their lives with the sheep live, think, feel, interact.
And in the fullness of time, God moved: in the hearts of His people, in Egyptian affairs and in Moses’ life, bringing the three together in one of the grandest displays of God’s glory and might and unconditional love and care for an undeserving and ungrateful people ever recorded in history!!
So, just because I can’t see around the next sand dune, doesn’t mean that there was no meaning or purpose in my first 26 years; and doesn’t mean that these next 22 years have been for naught. It also doesn’t mean I’ll be picking sand out of my pita bread for the rest of my life.