It’s easy for me to empathize with someone stepping into a public forum who is visibly rattled by nerves. It’s painful. I really dealt with it growing up because I was so self-conscious. And, when the focus was on me, my anxiety would often be compounded by someone commenting on how red my face was. The unease I so wanted to conceal announced its presence instead.
It’s natural to feel insecure when tackling something new with an audience that matters, whose respect I value. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when I was approaching a stage not too long ago to address a group of women and felt the nerves rushing in. When I accepted the position I knew it would draw me out of my comfort zone. Part of me wanted nothing to do with being on that stage, but on the other hand I really wanted to accomplish what God had placed on my heart. And that required the public aspect of the job.
I remember diving into Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life when it came out. The first sentence, “It’s not about you,” were the very words I needed as I prepared to walk on stage. I repeated them over and over as I approached the stage, confessing that any nervousness simply indicated how self-absorbed I was. I asked Him to realign my motive with His purpose and to give me a spirit of humility as He filled me with courage. He was the focus, not me. I prayed that He would turn my heart, mind and soul to Him. He was faithful; I delivered my short talk in tranquility and didn’t hear a single whisper about a red face.
Reading about God calling Moses to leadership in Exodus 3 reminded me of that night. I smiled to have something in common with him – nerves! Moses had a heart for the people, but didn’t feel equipped or qualified to lead them. He questioned God’s choice and responded with insecure questions. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (3:11) Though God promised to be with him, Moses continued with his insecurities, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” (3:13) God patiently prepared Moses by establishing his Name and providing Moses with an answer should the people ask (3:14). But still Moses’ insecurities and fear of looking foolish persisted, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” (4:1) At this point most of us would just want to slap him silly and tell Moses to man up! But instead God reveals his patience by equipping Moses with amazing miracles to demonstrate to the Israelites that he had indeed been in the presence of God. Still Moses dug his heels in with more excuses not to accept the call, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (4:10) Realizing that he’s getting nowhere, Moses finally lays it out there, attempting to throw in the towel he pleads, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” (4:13)
Really? Right about now I’m not feeling so bad about my reluctance to be on that stage. Moses loved and was loved by God, yet struggled deeply when called. This exchange is encouraging. It confirms God’s deep, patient love and resolve to stick with us. He gently calls us to what he has planned for us, patiently equipping us and empowering us to overcome the insecurities that threaten to render us ineffective.
Like social media documents some of our weakest moments, the Bible exposes Moses. At what point did Moses finally understand who it was that was calling him to action, the significance of His Name.
Exodus 3:14: And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary explains that God’s Name establishes him as self-existent with no dependence on any other. Therefore He is also self-sufficient and therefore all-sufficient. He will be what He will be and what He is. Moses desires instruction from God – what answer to give them – what name to give them to vouch to them as proof of his authority (If I must go, let me have full instructions so that I may not run in vain).
The commentary warmed my forever-planning-and-organized-heart by stating, “It highly concerns those who speak to people in the name of God to be well prepared beforehand. Those who would know what to say must go to God… to His Word… and to His throne for instruction.” Being a person who too often questions her calling and authority, who was knit together with a need to have all the facts before proceeding, helped me sympathize with Moses’ resistance.
The commentary notes that when facing insecurities, “It is desirable to know, and our duty to consider, what is His Name?” Why would a child of the God Most High, carrying out His agenda with His support have anything to fear?
Moses and I could save ourselves a lot of misery if we’d just truly understand early on who calls and equips us to complete the mission – the one and only I Am That I AM, the One who said in Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
With eyes on Him, oh what confidence to approach any circumstance, to obey any call!