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Keeping God at Arm’s Length

7 Jan

Inspired by preparations towards a Melton learning session I will be leading on Tuesday, January 21 at the Conejo/West Valley Melton School
in West Hills, Los Angeles, I am making my first blog entry in more than six months!

The ten plagues have passed (though the plague of cold seems to be well upon many of those reading these words….stay warm!), and this week we read of what for some serves as the second most powerfully awesome event in the whole of the Bible (next to the mega multi-media event of the giving of the Torah which we will read about next week); that is, the parting of the Yam Suf, the Sea of Reeds. The supernatural nature of the event as described in Exodus 14 set it up to become the climax of the opening section of prayerful song recited as part of our morning prayers….az yashir Moshe …. where we recall how the Israelites stood on the other side of the sea and recited glorious songs of praise to God for God’s magnificent triumph over the Egyptians – biblical Egypt’s Battle of Sailor’s Creek, as the taskmasters and slaves once and for all parted waves (could not resist that!).

For me, however, it is the moment right before this moment (Exodus 14:10-15) that has for many years drawn my attention and offered me great inspiration in my life:

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord.  They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” 

Crisis. Fear. Despondence. In the face of these, the faithful will do everything right. The Israelites pray to God and Moses calls upon God. 

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.”

I am moved just typing these words.

Is there perhaps such a thing as “too much God” in one’s life?  That is, what happens when we grow in what we call faith to such a degree that we have “put our complete faith in God.”  Is that a good thing, a praiseworthy achievement, a fulfillment of our calling in life, having been created in God’s image?

I ask myself, is that really what God wants of me, to put ALL of my faith  in God, to step out of the picture and let God lead the way, deferring at all times my intuition to His omniscience?

Taking a lesson from God’s chastisement of Moses for standing at the edge of the sea and crying out to Him, instead of going forth, I have come to believe that even in the area of faith, there is such a thing as “too much,” and that keeping God at arm’s length might actually be the very best way to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.