I’ll tell you something about myself. I absolutely loathe the idea of staying in one place for too long. It eats me up inside and I get downright antsy. Every time I watch a nature documentary that comments on sharks and their constant need for motion all I can think is “Sounds good to me!”. Let’s just say fear of missing out runs pretty strong in my veins.
The unfortunate thing about this is that constant motion isn’t always an option in our lives. We all have hopes, dreams, ambitions, and goals, but sometimes our lives seemingly take a turn for the unexpected and we find ourselves stuck in one place that we don’t want to be. It looks different for all of us. Maybe you don’t get that promotion and are stuck in the same position for longer. Maybe you don’t get that opportunity to move and you keep waking up in the same town. Maybe your coursework is taking longer than you thought and you feel like you’re never going to leave school.
Being stuck isn’t actually the hard part, though (not that it’s exactly a blast). What makes being stuck in one place so miserable is the inescapable thought that you shouldn’t be here. As I said, we all have our goals and ambitions, and when something comes along that keeps us in one place it’s hard to accept that fitting in the grand scheme of our plans. We don’t just feel like we’ve been delayed, we feel like something’s gone horribly wrong. How could this have happened? It’s not supposed to be this way. What are we supposed to do now?
If anyone in the Bible knew those questions acutely, it was probably Moses. Moses’ story is so well known just about everyone is familiar with the basics. Raised in the lap of luxury in Egypt, Moses flees to escape the wrath of Pharoah over a crime he committed. He then lives out in the desert in Midian, gets married, learns how to be a shepherd. Then, of course, there’s the little detail in which God calls him to go back to Egypt and free the Hebrews from centuries of enslavement through incredible miracles. You know, no big thing.
Moses knew better than most the feeling of being knocked off course and stuck. I can’t even imagine how he felt by the time he started living in Midian. He’d had a life of luxury that was probably accompanied by grand dreams for his future and now he’d left it all behind for fear of his life. Sure, he’d landed on his feet in Midian, but I think it’s safe to say that from his point of view he was completely derailed and stuck.
I often think of Moses in those periods of life when I feel stuck or off track. It’s comforting to recognize that God didn’t keep Moses in Midian forever and doesn’t intend the stuck feeling to last forever for me either. If God brought Moses out of Midian he will surely bring you out of yours.
Your Midian is not forever.
The thing about Midian is it always lasts longer than you think it will. You get there and it’s surprisingly easy to think to yourself: “All right! I don’t like this, but I can learn something from this time and be all the better for it.” It’s when the time stretches beyond how long you thought you’d be there that your grip on the situation starts to slip. This can’t be right. I shouldn’t still be here! I have so many things I want to be doing. I need to be doing them! I can’t stay here any longer. This is not where I’m supposed to be!
When I read the story of Moses and come to his time in Midian, I tend to look at it as a little blip in the arc of his story. Oh yeah? That time? That was just a breather Moses took before going back to Egypt. I look at it like Moses left Egypt, checked in to the Midian Resort for a three day weekend, and then reported back for duty. Nothing could be further from the truth. The actual timeline is so much more vast. Most scholars estimate that Moses spent around forty years in Midian. Forty. Years. I’m twenty-five, and I panic if I feel like I’ve been too still for a week. The idea of getting called away from a happening place for forty years is complete anathema to me.
My uncle and I were talking about this very subject once and how much I hated the idea of staying in one place for so long and worse, being away from what I want to do. He listened to me spill all my fears and worries and then asked me a question.
“What was Moses’ job while he was in Midian?”
“Herding sheep,” I answered, knowing full well he already knew that.
“And what were the Hebrews? They were just about the biggest flock of sheep out there. Moses’ time in Midian was job training for the real deal.”
I’ve never been able to look at Midian the same way since. Yes, it was forty years. Yes, it was different from what Moses expected. But no one can say that time was wasted.
Too often when we’re in our own Midian, there’s this enormous temptation to sit back and wait for it to be over. Just wait it out. It won’t last forever. I’ll be back on track soon. While that’s a great outlook to have and a good hope to hold on to, I’d like to say we can do even more. What if instead of sitting back we learned to herd sheep?
Don’t waste your time in Midian.
It may just be that Midian is the best classroom you could ever enter. Get your pencil and notebook ready, because God’s got some lessons for when you head back.
God is far too powerful to have his mission knocked off course by the small acts of our world. He will see you back on track. Learning all that you can from your Midian doesn’t make being stuck feel any nicer, but it makes you all the stronger when the next move comes. This time will pass too. Wouldn’t it be nice to have something to show for it on the other side? So as long as we’re in a Midian, search for everything you can learn from it and don’t stop doing the things you love to do to serve others. It doesn’t matter where you’re doing your acts of service or for how many. It matters that you’re doing them for the glory of God. The things you learn now will become another chapter in your ministry later. I promise you, your time in Midian is not being wasted. You’re not stuck.
Whether it’s four weeks or forty years, your Midian will not last forever. God is still working. God is still with you. Why not learn to herd some sheep while you’re there? You never know, it might just come in handy one day.
Let’s find some joy,