It’s about to be graduation season where we celebrate beginnings with their vague hope and endings with their celebratory finality. I love watching the pictures of proud families and excited soon-to-be high school and college students. We rightly highlight beginnings and endings, but we would do well to also remember that life consists mostly of the messy middle.
The first image that usually comes to mind when most people hear the name Moses is a Prince-of-Egypt-like bearded man holding up a staff and parting the Red Sea. This is the memorable Moses, the heroic Moses, the deliverer Moses. While this image is beautiful, I find myself most drawn to the Midian Moses, the Moses of the middle years.
I imagine the young Moses as having a strong sense of “manifest destiny” (or shall we say “manifest providence?”). After all, he was miraculously saved from sure death when he was drawn out of the Nile by none other than the Pharaoh’s daughter. He was beautiful in appearance; he was educated by the finest tutors in Egypt; he was clearly set apart.
He knew God had plans for his life, and I can imagine him eager to leave his mark. But life took a series of turns that he did not anticipate, culminating in his fleeing for his life from his home. Thus, Moses, God’s chosen instrument and one with whom God would one day speak face-to-face, found himself in Midian.
I imagine Moses’ years in Midian were spent swinging between contentment and confusion.
Exodus 2:21 says that Moses was willing to dwell in Midian. The Hebrew word translated willing is “yaal” and literally means to yield, to be content, to be pleased.” The Lord provided him a wife in Zipporah and a father figure in Jethro. Thus, Moses was content to dwell for decades, living as a common shepherd, husband and father. Contentment.
Yet, I wonder if Moses ever had days when he felt terribly confused at the way his life was panning out. Did he ever have a burning desire for more? Did he long to be used by God to help the Hebrew people with whom his heart was knit? I imagine him wandering through the vast wilderness with his flock asking, “Was this really what God rescued me for? Family and sheep are wonderful, but I feel as if I were wired for more.” Confusion.
In all those years of shepherding and living a quietly faithful life, God knew something that Moses didn’t: Moses needed Midian as much as the Hebrews needed deliverance.
Moses needed to mature, to have his desires and gifts refined. He needed the mundane, the simple and the small to whittle away at his pride and self-reliance. I imagine that everyday of those decades, God was hand-crafting him to be an instrument that was able to hear and to respond to His voice.
The pre-Midian Moses was strong, self-confident, ready to act as a deliverer for the Hebrew people in his time and his way. The post-Midian Moses had learned to take his sandals off before a holy God, had learned a healthy humility that truly questioned whether God could use him.
Midian made Moses.
We all need Midians. We need secret seasons of preparation and identity-forging in which we learn to trust in God’s power and not our own.
For some Midian looks like an extended season of singleness that was neither anticipated nor welcomed. In these years, the God-planted and good desires for marriage and parenting are rounded out and refined. For others Midian looks like unemployment or underemployment where God-given, God-pleasing talents are put on the back burner for a season. There are a myriad of Midians, but they share this in common: they are appointed by an all-wise, all-loving Father and will not last forever (though it often feels like they will).
Sometimes it seems that everyone else’s lives seem to be falling into place or moving forward in the fast lane while we sit in Midian, swinging between contentment and confusion.
Know this: the same God that planted desires deeply within you plans to fulfill them in His time and in His way. Meanwhile, in Midian, He is with you, refining you, refreshing you, reminding you of His truth.
I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6.