Once upon a time, I was freaked out and worried. Happens more than I would care to admit. In this particular instance, I was freaked out and worried about job hunting and all things being an adult. I can’t remember the particulars but it very much boiled down to thinking my wheels were spinning and I was stuck in a rut and never getting anywhere. I know I’m not alone in ever having felt that way.
As I said, I can’t remember the particulars of what I was worried about, and that’s because the advice I was given by a dear family member answered the fears and worries so resoundingly that there was nothing left to them. As I fretted and sniffled over the phone, they listened to me bemoan how off track my life seemed to be and how different I thought everything was supposed to be. That’s when they turned me to Exodus 2: 11-25 and our good friend Moses.
At this point in the story, Moses has it all together. He’s been raised in Pharaoh's household with all the luxuries that afforded and is spared from the oppressive work his fellow Hebrews are trapped under. Not a bad life.
In no time flat, though, it all seems to fall apart. Moses kills an Egyptian he saw beating a Hebrew and when Pharaoh finds out he wants Moses dead. Unable to stay in Egypt Moses flees to the land of Midian, leaving behind everything he’s ever known and the privileged life he was enjoying. Once in Midian, he’s welcomed amongst Jethro’s people. In no time at all, Moses is married, has children, and works for his father in law tending the flocks of sheep. The Moses of Egypt is a distant memory.
Now it’s true, things were looking up for Moses, but I’m convinced there must have been nights when he lay awake and wondered how everything could have gone so differently from what he expected his life to be. It’s a pretty huge change to go from the lap of luxury to a shepherd far from the home you’d always known. Being a shepherd must have seemed like a sharp turn away from the life Moses had been looking forward to.
We live in a world that demands success. We’ve gotten to the point where we often measure our worth based on the world’s idea of success. How young were you when you landed your dream job? How killer was the pay? How big is your house? How respected are you by your peers? How many followers do you have on social media? It spins round and round and round until we’re just dogs chasing a tail we’ll never be able to catch. Sometimes it seems like we just might make it, just might get to that thing we’re chasing and grab it.
And then inevitably we end up watching sheep in the middle of nowhere. Or in my case, wondering why the job I was working was so different from where I was trying to get to. How could everything have gone so differently? How are we ever going to make up for the time lost?
But that’s exactly the point my family member was making to me about Moses and his situation.
“Moses got a job herding sheep!” They told me, “Then look at what he ended up using that life skill for. The Israelites were basically the biggest flock of sheep there was.”
Because isn’t that just how God works? What might have seemed like the detour to end all detours was actually on the job training. God was using Moses’ time in Midian to get him ready for the mission that would define his entire legacy. The same can ultimately be said about us.
I think it’s a safe bet that the God of the universe, author of time, might just know what’s in your future and has a plan for it. If you’re earnestly seeking God’s will in your life, he’s not going to discount that. He’s not going invite you into his mission and then hang you out to dry. That’s just not how he works. He wants us to be part of the story and he doesn’t just want us to be successful by the world’s standards, he wants us to be successful by his. So it stands to reason that maybe there’s a purpose behind the detours. What you see as a detour might be on the job training.
And I get it. It can be hard to tell when you’re there, and it can be hard to bear it. You want to be at point B, but if you want to arrive at point B successful and victorious, you need to put in the work along the way. There’s work you can be doing right now, right here. So are we really getting slapped with a detour? Or are we on the right track all along and we just can’t see to the end of the road?
The detour is only a detour if you refuse to learn anything from it.
Moses didn’t stay a shepherd in Midian. He returned to Egypt and actively spearheaded one of the most well-known stories of the Bible. He led the world’s biggest flock out of slavery and shepherded them to the end of his days. I think it’s safe to say that his time in Midian wasn’t wasted. Yours won’t be either. If you’re following Christ, you’re taking part in a story that doesn’t end in defeat. It’s going somewhere, and so are you. If your wheels are spinning, it doesn’t mean that everything is over, it just means now’s as good a time as any to learn how to get unstuck.
Don’t discredit the time you spend herding sheep, it might just be the training that defines your life’s work.
Let’s find some joy,