The title of our churches’ summer children’s program this year was Holy Moses! Each day of the week, we shared a story from the life of Moses, one of the most important figures in Hebrew scripture. Some were retellings of the story in the Bible and some imagined moments inspired by the story.
One of those stories imagined what it must have been like for the Hebrew people packing up and leaving Egypt. After all the “persuasion” needed to convince Pharaoh to let them go, when it finally was time, we wondered how the people were feeling. They’d been there so long none of them knew any life other than as a slave in Egypt. For better or worse (or much worse), it was their home. They’d lived with the hope that one day things would change, but it had been a very, very long time. Now they were leaving. Wouldn’t they have questions? Like, now what? Where are we going? How do we get there? Is it far? Will it take long? And, of course, what can we bring?
We imagined how Moses would have to explain that they were leaving in a hurry, they were walking (most of them, at least) and they wouldn’t be able to take anything but the most important things with them. After a lengthy list of requests of what they wanted to bring (some more ridiculous than others, of course - it was a story for children, after all) it came down to a little girl reminding them what was most important: we’ll have each other and our freedom. God is with us. “Any more questions?” asks Moses, and off they go.
The simple point we wanted to make with the story was that when you’re in the same place for a long time, you might collect stuff that you think is important. But what’s really important is living, free to be who we truly are, who we share our life with and how we share our life with others. That becomes the theme of the wilderness time: discovering those things and how to be a community together. And at the heart of that is God.
What was just as important was where the conversation after the story went. We talked about how hard it can be to let go when it’s the only thing you’ve known. Even when that thing might not have been a good place or a good experience or a positive part of our lives. We talked about how scary it can be to know that you have to move on but you don’t know exactly where you’re going. We talked about how that’s made much more difficult when it seems like you have to move quickly - too quickly. We talked about how you can be happy and excited as well as sad and scared all at the same time. We talked about how that’s okay, and where we might look to find support and care. We talked about where we find God in all this. And it brought us back to the little girl at the end of the story.
God is the love that creates, cares, inspires and brings life. We might experience that in people we meet, the creation we wonder at, and the simple sense of God’s presence - that we are not alone.