I went to a meeting once to hear a speaker, and running late, got in just in time for the beginning of the event. I went to the back row and sat down next to a guy who looked kind of familiar. He introduced himself and put out his hand and I shook it politely and then focused on the things happening in the room. A man got on a microphone and introduced the guest speaker, who (wouldn’t you know it?) was sitting right next to me. The whole time I was shaking the guy’s hand I had that vague sense that I should be a little more aware, but I just couldn’t focus enough to hear my soul or my brain or the universe giving me the clues.
Have you ever had anything like that happen to you? Or how about something like this? You are running late for work and, in a hurry, you aggressively “win” in a parking lot duel with a person who turns out to be your boss’s boss’s boss. Of course, you only realize this while you are stuck in the elevator with him, and he casually mentions your speedy driving skills while quickly beating you to your button in the elevator. “Here, let me get that for you.” You look down at the floor, and then the ceiling tiles, and then at the floor again. You’ve never noticed so much detail on those tiles before, or all the scuff marks on the floor.
Our brushes with celebrities, or authority figures, are a casual picture of what can happen with God. You can be surprised at a sudden meeting, or challenged by what He might say. Take Moses for example. He had been out in the desert for a long time. Long enough to almost forget that he had a sense of destiny early on in his life about being able to somehow help his people out of slavery and bondage.
Forty years is a long time. The seasons came and went. Summer, fall, winter, spring. Summer, fall, winter, spring, and then again times forty. And there were the thoughts, the memories of the mess that sent him out here in the first place, or the memories of family. You could imagine that occasionally Moses would look over the rocks and sand toward Egypt and wonder. How are they? Are they even alive?
And then there it was. A light of some kind, or is that a fire? Yes, by now you know this story because you’ve seen the movie, and that’s what makes it so hard to re-imagine. Let’s try it this way:
Allie was tired. It had been a long day. “Winter sucks,” she said to herself as she leaned into the door going outside. The gales of wind whipping through the office buildings sang a bitter sad song against her freezing ears. “This is a picture of my life right now, just walking along into a hard, cold wind.” For no reason at all, she pictured the day she signed her divorce papers. “I signed them with a slightly shaky hand, but with no emotion whatsoever. Why didn’t I cry, scream, yell, something. I don’t know…” That little tweet coming from her coat pocket was a text from the boys, “Where RU? Need food!” As she was planning her trip to the store and the trip home in her mind, she turned the corner into the parking garage, bracing for the usual blast of frigid air, but the expected did not happen. It was kind of a surprise. It was a blast of warm air. Actually it was hot air, and a bright light of a blazing fire. And just before her a barrel was blazing. It was not unusual for people in the city to stand around these trashcans, turned into remote furnaces. But this was entirely different. The can was absolutely incandescent, glowing more than burning. Allie walked closer, and then it spoke!
“Hey, Allie! Wanna talk?”
“I said, Hi Allie, would you like to talk?”
“Yes, of course. Could you tell me where my mind went? I seem to have lost it because I’m talking to a friggin’ trashcan!”
“No need to get snippy there. I just want to talk.”
“Alright, I’m game. What about?”
“I need a favor from you. I need you to talk to some people for me.”
“Really? Why don’t you just do it yourself, Mr. Light-In-A-Trashcan…Man? ”
“ Very funny. You know you shouldn’t talk to your Creator like that. I mean, I could just zap you into a million little pieces right now. Just like that! Zzzzt! O.K., now I’m the one being funny. Sorry…”
“You could, zzzzt, just like that! I mean, wow! I’m guessing that’s not what this is about though? Who do you want me to talk to? Why me, anyway?”
“Oh, like I’ve never heard that one before. ‘Why me?’ You really are funny. I like your sense of humor.”
“My sense of humor, that’s why you want me to talk to someone for you? My sense of humor?”
“Sure, why not? Isn’t that what people like about you?”
“Well, yeah, alright…”
“I haven’t forgotten you, Allie, and I want you to tell people that I haven’t forgotten them either. What is that you’ve got in your hand there?”
“What, my key fob?”
“Sure, that’ll do. So, here’s how it’ll go. You go about your life, and when I want you to tell someone about how I haven’t forgotten them, you just reach in your pocket and touch that key fob. And when that happens, I’ll open their hearts to hear what you’ve got to say, just like your car unlocks when you press the button. Brilliant!”
When the trashcan said “brilliant!” a flash of cold air ripped through the parking garage where Allie was walking, and she shivered in the cold while the car warmed up. That night she told her kids that she loved them, and that they were not forgotten by the One who made them.
Moses just had the basic tool of his trade in his hand. It was just a simple staff, a lowly unknown shepherd’s rod. But from that point on it became the Rod of God, a tool that God used to direct and change the world forever. It may be time for us all to re-imagine the possibilities of the power that could be wielded through the simple gifts we carry with us all our lives. So what is it that you have in your hand?