A Parable on the Paradox of Perfect Power

When Moses was 40 years old he got a notion to work toward saving his fellow Jewish people from cruel slavery. He figured he could, by his own strength and eloquence free the Israelites. But Moses was a ahead of God’s plan. He was still too proud, too young and strong for God to use him. He’s trying to fix lives that God isn’t ready to fix yet. and he really needs his own life fixed first.  Moses ended up murdering a man and he had to flee for his life. It’s never a good thing to get ahead of God. It means He is no longer leading, you are, and that’s a very dangerous place to be, out ahead of God.

So Moses is now a broken man, sought by the law and not even welcomed by the people he wants to save. Off to the desert he flees and to the Land of Midian for forty more years. There he gets married and helps his Father-in-Law tend sheep. This is a far place from the Egyptian palace he grew up in. But God humbles only to exult us. It took another forty years, but Moses was finally weak enough and defendant enough for God to use him. Has not St. Paul written that power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9). We have to be weak and dependent enough for God to really use us. Only when we discover our limits and our need for God are we “safe enough” for God to use. Moses needed to learn this paradox of perfect power. St. Paul writes elsewhere:

For it is written “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;  the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? ….Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Cor 1:18-31 selected)

God couldn’t use or call Moses as long as he was among the “wise and powerful” of this world, as long as he drew his strength from his status as a member of Pharaoh’s household. No, first God had to help Moses become a fool to this world, despised, no longer influential , no longer of noble birth. It took forty years in the desert but now it was accomplished. So, at Age 80(!) God calls to Moses from the Burning Bush and sends him to “let my people go.” Most of us aren’t thinking of doing great things at 80. We’re settling in for the last pages of our life. And Moses tries to get out of it. But the time has come. Now Moses is ready and God is ready too.

Do you understand the moral of this story? A lot of us are trying to fix other people in our lives when God wants to fix us first. Moses was too proud and strong to help at age forty. Now he is fixed and ready to go. He is humble enough to be used by God. He is aware of his limits, that he is slow of speech, that he stutters and is not eloquent or persuasive. He is now weak enough to be strong for now the power of God will rest upon him (cf 2 Cor 12:9)  You don’t have to wait to be perfect to help in fixing others. But to be most effective we have to let God work on us too. The more fixed you are the more effective you are.

Moses lived on to be 120 years old. But in the last 1/3 of his life he never went anywhere without the Staff of God in his hand. He was humble enough now that he had to lean on that staff and depend wholly on the strength of God.  WE think we are most effective in the prime of our life when we are on the “top of our game” but the story of Moses says otherwise. We have to be weak and humble to lean on God. Moses’ power came in his weakness, his leaning on and dependence upon the Staff of God. My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. (2 Co 12:10). A paradox to be sure, a paradox of power made perfect.

This video features Louis Armstrong’s version of “Go Down Moses.”  The Cartoon is interesting but has on major flaw. It presents Moses as a young Man. He was not. He was 80 years old when God called him:

The Human Condition

In the ideal world, everything goes off without a hitch. But in the real world there’s usually a glitch. To some extent Hollywood and TV exaggerate that notion for us. We watch movies and TV shows where everything goes off like clockwork and there are no failures, except where that advances the plot. But the perfect scene on TV or in the movies may have required dozens of “takes” to get it right. Even then, splicing of scenes may be required to make the whole thing seamless.

But in the real world things are not always perfect. People show up late or don’t have the expected reaction. Things go awry. Technologies fail, computers freeze, accidents happen. Every now and then things seem to go perfectly only to discover that not everyone liked what went perfectly!  We once had what I thought was a perfect parish event, only to find out that some thought it was too long, others thought it was too short. And yes,  a few liked it just fine.

Alas, the human condition. I read a book some years ago called, “Spirituality of Imperfection.” In effect the book argues that God has placed the perfect in our heart to make us strive for and desire heaven. But he allows us to experience imperfection to teach us humility, without which we will never attain to heaven. Imperfection is something to be accepted with humility. If we do this we are learning wisdom. It is the human condition to strive for that which is best and perfect and never give up on that quest. But the human condition is also to be able to accept with humility that which is ordinary, and imperfect; that which is our very selves and a seldom perfect world. Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for heaven!

Here is a very funny video. On the TV series Star Trek the computers usually work without flaw, unless some alien has messed them up! But what if Star Treks computers were Windows based? Enjoy this video as perfect Hollywood gives way to imperfect, though still adequate  Windows. By the way there is a whole video series devoted to the imperfect. Just go to you Youtube or any video service and search “Fail” and lots of videos will pop up! Careful some of them are vulgar, but most of them are very funny.