I Will Be With You

Written by Tara Woodward

Midwinter my friend Steve, a former film producer, asked me “what’s your favorite scene from a novel?” I quickly answered “I fell in love with Meg Murry in A Wrinkle in Time when she said ‘NO.’”

A Wrinkle in Time is not the sort of book I read in college or at church—its New Testament quotations and magical characters are both too Christian and too profane. It’s a book I discovered on my own during a summer break, shelved in the young adult section and savored secretly while driving or waiting in line.

It’s also a book I don’t talk about at work or seminary. Meg is an unlikely antihero. Her awkwardness, anger, and imperfections intensely match my own. Her sharp defiance mimics my deeply incisive inner voice. As with The Chronicles of Narnia, I wondered—was this written for me?

Stories shape us. Their characters become our guides. Their dialogue articulates words we dared not utter. Their actions prod us into being brave, delivering us every time we are scared or get stuck.

What I find as a literary friend in awkward Meg, I also find in hesitant Moses. Unlike the brave Lucy or stoic Abraham whose faithfulness seems unwavering, Moses exhibits an unfortunate example.

As readers this side of the Old Testament, we’re given an unfair advantage. We know Moses from the beginning was chosen to be God’s instrument at a crucial time in Israel’s story. His miraculous midwife birth, his Egyptian upbringing, and his escape to Midian all point to divine deliverance for a greater purpose. God’s favor rests on Moses. God’s calling Moses.

Yet, Moses cannot seem to believe this. Even in direct dialogue with God, Moses hedges his call:

·      “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11)

·      “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Ex. 3:13)

·      “But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me, but say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” (Ex. 4:1)

·      “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Ex. 4:10)

·      “O my Lord, please send someone else.” (Ex. 4:13)

His last excuse has always been my personal favorite. Like Meg’s emphatic “NO”, Moses’ words articulate the inner critic to my call as a woman in ministry. His last excuse haunts me when I frequently ask “Why are you in seminary?” or “Why aren’t you a missionary like your twin sister?”

For all Moses’ faults, his defiance delivers me whenever I am scared to be bold or get stuck in my circumstances. Whenever I wonder why God calls unlikely antiheros. Whenever I groan “O Lord, please someone else.” Surely God’s calling someone else for ministry—someone more intelligent, more impressive, more articulate? Surely there’s a brave Miriam or courageous midwife better equipped for the task? Is not a well-known, well-spoken Aaron a better choice? O Lord, please send someone else.

Augustine of Hippo and Martin Luther, early saints of the church, coined the phrase “humanity curved in upon itself” whenever the voice of the self-loathing critic bends the best of God’s gifts. We are curved in upon ourselves each time we despise or disregard the signs God gives all along. When the voice of fear or failure is louder than God’s voice calling “I will be with you” from the burning bush (Ex. 3:12).

 “‘A planet can also become dark because of too strong a desire for security. This is the greatest evil of all.’ Meg resisted her father’s analysis. ‘What’s wrong with wanting to be safe?’ Mr. Murry continued, ‘Lust for security forces false choices and a panicked search for safety and conformity. Grandmother would get very annoyed when anyone would talk about the power of love. Love, she insisted, is not power, which she considered always coercive. To love is to be vulnerable; and it is only in vulnerability and risk—not safety and security—that we overcome darkness.’” (L'Engle)

God’s love and compassionate presence—not safety and security—await us out of Egypt.  “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain” (Ex. 3:12). God’s calling you.

Months after reading Moses’ vulnerable words, you’ll probably reference God’s call to a family member or a fellow church-goer. You’ll unthinkingly throw the word “deliverance” into a sentence or name a season of uncertainty “Egypt.”

When you do, you’ll learn that the Exodus story wasn’t written for an audience of one, because God was calling you too. God was with you. All those years, with your upbringing and your excuses and your despairing belief in your own monstrosity, you haven’t been alone after all: “I will be with you” (Ex. 3:12).