From times of crisis, deeper faith can emerge
June 2 2019Moses might be said to have come to a point of crisis when he recovered his identity as a member of the Hebrew people (Genesis 2). From what we know in the verses that deal with his life to that point, he is brought up in both the royal court and in the nurturing presence of his mother. Time goes by and his life seems to be that of the royal circle around Pharaoh, unexceptional until the day of crisis when he takes the side of a Hebrew in a conflict with an Egyptian.
It is not just the decision to take the part of the Hebrew but the escalation of the conflict that sees Moses killing the Egyptian and burying his body in the desert sand. His passion for justice has irrevocably determined the side he would now be on, not that it is uncontended. Only a single day passes until the full impact of what he had decided confronts him. This time two Hebrews are fighting and one, resenting Moses’ intrusion, blurts out, “Who made you a ruler and judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” (Gen 2.14)
Moses is confronted with a brutal reality. He has broken the ties with his former life and is not seeing any early signs that he is on the way to acceptance in the new.
I reflect on this because identity is an important constituent of our contemporary understanding of what it means to be human. Who we are as an individual, how we understand our identity and how our identity is received by others are all relevant to our participation in human community. Whether at mid-life or at other times, “crisis” is an apt word to describe the position that many people find themselves in. Crisis always implies that we are in a time when we must make a decision and come to a judgment in a time of transition.
Moses resolves his immediate crisis by travelling to Midian and finding purpose and healing in a new family and community. I find the story of Moses a strikingly modern story. Whether it is a “gap year”, a “tree change” or a “sea change”, or just finding more “me time”, we have institutionalised ways for people to make a better journey through such life transitions and times of crisis than might otherwise be possible.
It is no surprise to me that there is a long tradition of people emerging from crisis with new or deepened Christian faith. Like Moses we need to recognise the full extent of what a change we undergo in becoming a Christian and be ready for the full implications of that to be worked out in a supportive and nurturing community. Jesus is entirely realistic when he describes how disruptive our discipleship, our following of him may be (Luke 14.26). What seemed settled, even the foundation of our comfort and security, is likely to be radically disrupted by the reality of our Baptism and incorporation into Christ.
May we each, like Moses, find God’s deeper purposes in our faithful following of God’s call.
Read more from Dr Philip Freier, Anglican Primate of Australia and Archbishop of Melbourne, at http://www.anglicanprimate.com.au