We all want to do well. In fact, our society demands that we always do our best. We live in a competitive environment. This becomes very clear now at the beginning of the school year. In this area, parents receive letters from schools, telling them to affirm the value of their children and not to overcommit them because the rates of teenage-depression is at an all-time-high. College students feel undervalued when they have a GPA of 3.7. They believe they are not good enough. We are prisoners of our own society that puts the pressure on us to perform and navigate our lives with little support from the government – because governmental support is an overreach into our freedom. May one ask, then, are we prisoners of freedom?
In Exodus, we read of Moses encountering the burning bush that does not devour. It is one of my favorite stories because it asks some really fundamental questions: One is: Who am I? What am I worth? And where do I fit in? These questions arise for students and older folks alike. Where do we fit in? Moses thought that he had all the answers. He grew up at the top of a society that worked for him until his reality was shaken when he came to know that his life was a lie. He was not a prince of Egypt. He was not royalty. He became anxious and insecure until he found a family that loved him. About 40 years later, his life was shaken again when God called him through the burning bush. Of course, one might think, “How could Moses even question the divine decree and God’s judgment on him.” It is Godself speaking to him through a burning but not devouring bush and giving Moses the task to liberate God’s people. Imposter-syndrome Moses sits in the back seat saying, “Who am I to do this?” without even considering that God might have asked the same question: Who is Moses – and can I trust him?
The second question that is being asked and answered is: “Who is the one divine being that drives us?” Moses asks that question, and he receives a blunt answer: “I am who I am; I will be who I will be – or: I am who I will be, and I will be who I am.” – In other words, what God really says is “I am eternal.” No matter who we are, God is there, will be there, and has been there already before we knew it. Here, God is compassionate. God has compassion in other places too, whether it is Elijah starving or the people of Israel suffering in the latter portions of the prophet Isaiah – let alone the many stories of Jesus of Nazareth approaching those who are at the margins. But there is more than that here in this passage. The burning bush story is inadvertently the most compassionate biblical narrative in the Bible, where God confesses that God can no longer watch the misery of God’s people. So, God calls on Moses, the one individual, to help fulfill God’s promise God made to the people – the promise of life, of property, and of independence.
Who are we? The Eternal says: No matter who you are, however you feel, and whatever you are going through, I am with you. In the busyness of our lives, this truth that there is this higher power that sees us and is with us can be a comfort.