Project Conversion

Project Conversion


The Pain of Discovering Our Purpose. Lessons from Moses.

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Welcome to the first post of Project Conversion: Aftermath (PC/Aftermath). Now that you’ve spent a year watching me personally nosedive into various faiths of the world, we will now tackle some of life’s most challenging issues using scripture and wisdom from the faiths we learned about.

Each month will host one topic/challenge. I will make a post at least twice weekly (Monday and Friday mornings) which focus on these issues. If anything personal happens along the way that might contribute to the discussion of the featured topic–depending on depth and significance–I’ll throw that bad boy in there as well.

Enough yapping, let’s get started.

PDD. In medical vernacular, PDD refers to “Pervasive Developmental Disorder” which include five specific conditions including Autism and Asperger syndrome. These conditions mark delays in basic functions such as communication and socialization.

Ask any parent or medical professional about the daily struggle of both suffering from these conditions and caring for loved ones with PDD. It’s heart-breaking because parents, more often than not, simply cannot communicate fully with a child suffering from this condition.

I believe this happens to us spiritually as well.

In this week’s series, we’re going to look at two of the religious world’s most famous characters: Moses, the man chosen by God to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt (story found in the Tanakh or Christian “Old Testament), and Arjuna, a Pandava prince aided by Lord Krishna who fought in the Kurushetra war over the rightful heir to the throne (story found in the Bhagavad Gita).

Prince Arjuna with Lord Krishna (blue) and Moses holding the Law

Today, we’ll begin with Moses.

According to the biblical account, Moses was a Hebrew born in a time of Hebrew captivity in Egypt. By now, his people had been slaves (slaves at most, second-class citizens at least relegated to hard labor) in Egypt for around 400 years. To save him from death by Pharaoh’s decree, Moses’s mother sent him down the river where he was eventually adopted by Pharaoh’s sister. He thus grew up in the royal family.

But things got complicated.

One day, he discovered an Egyptian abusing one of the Hebrews and killed him. Soon, Pharaoh discovered the incident and ordered his death. Moses fled into the desert toward Midian. There, he linked up with the priest of Midian, married one of his daughters (for rescuing them at a well), and lived comfortably for many years as a shepherd.

Moses thought he had it made. He was comfortable and complacent. And that’s usually when the universe begins screwing with us.

One day while tending his flock, Moses noticed something.

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” –Exodus 1-3

Moses is about to get the spiritual gut punch of his life, and “weird/strange” is the all-time favorite bait the divine uses to get our attention. There’s a bush that’s suddenly on fire. I think I’ll go check it out. Curiosity will either kill the cat or make you a prophet. There is no middle ground.

So our man Moses checks out this bush. When he gets there, all bets are off.

“When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

 And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father,the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. –Exodus 3: 4-5

Verse four trips me out. The cavalier response of Moses after the voice from the bush just called his name is the first marker of Moses’s spiritual PDD. Dude, a bush just called your name and without any further description, he basically says, “Hey, what’s up?”

Perhaps we’re missing some narrative here, but God or not, I’d freak out and bolt if a bush called my name. Moses wasn’t expecting God or anything else to uproot his life. His comfort level rendered him disabled…for the moment.

God in the bush (or at least one of his angels) goes on to freak Moses out by telling him who he is. Moses then takes off his shoes (holy ground) and hides his face. Now he’s waking up. Then, God tells Moses that he’s been chosen to go to Egypt on his behalf and free the Hebrews from captivity.

The first reaction of Moses is a series of  “Yeah but” moments of doubt, uncertainty, and objection.

“But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” –Exodus 3: 11

“Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?” –Exodus 4: 1

“Moses said to the LORD, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” –Exodus 4: 10

“But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” –Exodus 4: 13

God counters each of these objections time and again with either explanations or signs, but Moses–because of his spiritual PDD–fails to see the big picture: God’s picture. I can see God doing a face-palm at this point. Moses is failing to realize his purpose, dharma, and destiny.

But I want you to see something else. Moses, like Pharaoh later, fails to align himself with God’s design even in the face of various displays of his power.

How often do we experience this ourselves?

Sometimes we become so complacent with our blessings and good fortune that we develop spiritual PDD and therefore have difficulty seeing/hearing the divine. It’s easy to say that you’d listen to God and do whatever he told you if he appeared as a burning bush, but Moses shows us that our inability to see/hear the divine isn’t because of the medium God uses to communicate with us, but because we fail to seek him in all things/situations.

Or we just get lazy/complacent.

Moses shows us how self-doubt and personal comfort zones cripple our ability to see our purpose. What are some ways you can open yourself up to God’s purpose for you today?  Change is rarely comfortable and God, through his transformative power, is always an advocate of growth and change throughout many scriptures.

On Friday we’ll look at the challenge of Prince Arjuna as he faces a bitter war and seeks advice from Lord Krishna.

 



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Pam34

posted January 11, 2012 at 3:34 am


Andrew, I wonder if you ever ran across the ‘drash (Jewish interpolation/story/reinterpretation of the text) that tells us that the Bush that burned had burned forever – that Moses was the first person who ‘saw’ it and recognized the presence of the divine in the world, and turned aside to ‘go and see’.



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Art Sherwood

posted January 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm


Great post Andrew, I just love the story of Moses. It is one of the prime examples of how God chooses his prophets. Time and time again in the scriptures, we see how God seems to pick the unlikliest of candidates to be His spokesperson. He never picks the Goliaths, he always goes for the Davids.

I think there are two reasons for this. One, the Davids and Moses are humble and are well aware of their weaknesses and shortcomings. That is why they are so hesitant to accept their callings. They can’t fathom how they could possibly up to the task. Secondly, I think God chooses these people to make it unmistakably clear that it is the power of God working through them. There is no possible way they could be working these miracles on their own.

In the LDS faith, we are blessed to have additional insight into Moses’ calling due to revelation given to Joseph Smith which has been recorded as the Book of Moses in one of our books of scripture called the Pearl of Great Price. This book contains an account of one of Moses’ encounters with God where he discovers more about who God is and, subsequently who he himself is.

1 The words of God, which he spake unto Moses at a time when Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain,

2 And he saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence.

3 And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?

4 And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.

5 Wherefore, no man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory; and no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth.

6 And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all.

7 And now, behold, this one thing I show unto thee, Moses, my son, for thou art in the world, and now I show it unto thee.

8 And it came to pass that Moses looked, and beheld the world upon which he was created; and Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created; of the same he greatly marveled and wondered.

9 And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth.

10 And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.

11 But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.



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