Sharon and I were on our way home from church when she ever-so-gently prodded me about some paperwork that I was supposed to have completed for our Youth Pastor. She and I had both been given the same forms at the same time, and hers had been completed and returned almost immediately. I proceeded to take mine home and promptly forget about it, not out of rebellion, just old fashioned dead-brain-cell forgetfulness.
My first instinct in such situations is always to make an excuse. If possible, shift the blame to someone else. Sharon wasn’t buying any of it, although she did find it amusing. As we arrived at our home, I went to the kitchen to get my forms from the kitchen table, where I had left them. I discovered that I had a real, live excuse for not filling out those forms: The cat threw up on them. It seems bizarre, but it’s the real, live, total truth. There on the kitchen table were my soggy forms, covered with semi-digested cat food. Somehow, I don’t think the Youth Pastor is going to buy this – it sounds too much like those “the dog ate my homework” excuses we hear from our youth!
Of course, if I had done my paperwork when I was supposed to do it, this would have been a non-issue. Instead of laughing hysterically, Sharon would be growling about the cat throwing up on our nice oak table. Even so, it doesn’t work as justification for not doing what I should have done – it only serves to illustrate how creative most of us can be when we’re looking for excuses.
There are many great excuse-makers in the Bible. Perhaps the best example of excuse-making at it’s finest is found in Exodus, where we find Moses laying out excuse after excuse for not obeying God’s call. He started with “I can’t do that, I’m nobody” (Exo 3:11). Then, it was “What if they want to know who sent me?” (Exo 3:15). Then, it was “What if they don’t believe me?” (Exo 4:1). When those tactics didn’t discourage God, Moses turned to “I can’t do this. I’m not a skilled speaker” (Exo 4:10). Finally, Moses got to the point: “I don’t wanna. Send someone else.” (Exo 4:13). It didn’t matter to God that Moses didn’t want to go serve Him. God answered every one of Moses’ cheap excuses, assigned Aaron to be Moses’ spokesman, and told him pack up and get moving.
The whole image of Moses arguing and negotiating with God seems strange to me. Would you try to negotiate with a speeding locomotive? Would you make cheap excuses to a tornado? What in creation did Moses think he was doing, trying to tell God what He could and couldn’t do? But, we do it all the time, don’t we? God prods us from within to do something, and instead of doing it, we argue and negotiate with God while our window of opportunity passes us by. God calls us to do something, and we start telling Him why we can’t. We try to tell God what we’re going to do, and what He’s going to bless, and we ignore Him when He tries to challenge us. We routinely use the same tactics that Moses did, with the same intent – to get God’s plan to conform to ours.
Moses went on to great victory over Pharaoh, and to escort the children of Israel out of Egypt. In spite of Moses’ cheap excuses, God used Him to fulfil His plan. Moses would have enjoyed the ride a lot more if he would have argued with God less, and trusted God’s ability to handle the task at hand. Like Moses, we will find our optimum mode of living only when we follow God’s direction.
And, we’ll be a lot happier along the way if we take God’s marching orders and, rather than negotiating, “just do it.”