I have been struggling a little bit with fear over the last couple of days. Fear of progressing in the things that I love; fear of being true to myself and my voice, which I have committed to maintaining without compromise. And, because I’m human, I have transferred that fear onto God, and subconsciously told myself that maybe He wants me to be afraid as the appropriate antidote to being too confident – and maybe too joyous.
That is not God I believe in, but a god of my own making. It is small, in line with my need to keep myself small, because possibility is vast, and it can be daunting! I am so used to playing small – and using God as an excuse to legitimise it – that I have to actively catch myself out now when I see myself doing it. If I accept for a moment that God is who He frequently tells me He is – all-Forgiving, all-Loving, Oft-Returning, Most Compassionate, and more – as an absolute truth, and that I obscure that from my own view by the dense, dark smoke of self-limiting deception that I have created for myself in my mind (where that small, belittling, capricious god resides), then I have a choice and an invitation. I can choose to continue fumbling around blindly in the blinding, intoxicating fumes of fear and tell myself I have no choice but to be at its whim, or I can trust in the truth of a powerful, loving God who believes in me more than I currently believe in myself, and is always there beyond the smoke, if I just keep pushing on in that faith.
When I open my eyes and let the words of God sink in, begin to grasp who He truly is versus who I have sometimes created Him to be to contain myself, then I really see that fear is my own creation. God does not want me to be small; I have no need to fear anyone or anything but Him.
It was with this swirling around in my mind that I read the Qur’an today, and I came upon the story of Moses (AS). There are some parts of the Qur’an which read like a human experience, and the story of Moses is one of them; the vibrancy, drama and humanity of the passages in the Qur’an about his prophetic mission are some of the most relatable therein, appealing even to small children (I remember these passages as a teenager). As a Prophet and Messenger in Islam, he is one of the most revered figures for Muslims, a respect shared with Jews and Christians, all being of the Abrahamic faith. His mission, to preach the truth of One God to the Pharaoh and his people, and to lead the Israelites to freedom in a land of their own, is told several times in the Qur’an, which highlights its importance. As I write this, I am moved by love for this incredible Prophet and his story, and what I can learn from it. I am always in awe that he was the only Prophet to have been spoken to directly by God, and that he requested to see God and, when God told him that he could not bear that, and to look at the nearby mountain instead – where He would manifest His Glory – fell into a swoon when the mountain crumbled to dust¹ (which I think is a wonderful image of Moses’ love for God, and an indicator of his own humanity!).
Today, as I read Surah Qasas (chapter 28 of the Qur’an), and thought of who God is as He tells me, and my own fears, this is what I got from the story of Moses:
- Turning to God in need – Moses calls upon God when he is in material need – he is a fugitive from a land where he tried to help a man and accidentally killed his opponent, and says, ‘O my Lord! Truly I am in (desperate) need of any good that You send me!’...(28:24). Sound familiar to anybody in need and in despair?
God responds by providing him with shelter, a home, and a family (28:26-28)
- Having fear and being reassured by God– Moses is scared when he is first called by God for his mission: ‘”O Moses! Surely I am Allah, the the Lord of the Worlds…Now throw you your staff!” but when he [Moses] saw it moving (of its own accord)…he turned back in retreat, and retraced not his steps.’ (28:31). Can you identify with the fear of being called into a mission of greatness, and with which you’re not familiar?
In response to his fear, God replies, ‘”O Moses!…Draw near and fear not: for you are of those who are secure.”‘ (28:31) I was comforted reading those words – I felt like God was also reassuring me, somehow.
- Seeking forgiveness – for killing a man! Moses sought God’s forgiveness for killing a man in error: ‘He prayed”O my Lord! I have indeed wronged my soul! Do You then forgive me!'” (28:16)
God’s response was immediate: ‘So Allah forgave him: for He is the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’ (28:16)
I thought – if God can forgive the accidental death of a man, then how many of my wrongs can He forgive if I ask for it? And here I am, continually making myself wrong and telling myself I’m beyond forgiveness.
- Seeking support and protection – on learning of his mission from God, Moses is nervous about the task, also because he fears reprisal for the death of the man he killed. He asks God: ‘”O my Lord! I have slain a man among them, and I fear lest they slay me. And my brother Aaron – he is more eloquent in speech than I, so send him with me as a helper, to confirm (and strengthen) me: for I fear that they may accuse me of falsehood.”‘ (28:35)
God replies: ‘”We will certainly strengthen your arm through your brother, and invest you both with authority, so they shall not be able to touch you.”‘ (28:35)
Again, sound familiar? Thinking that you’re not up to the task you’ve been given – to fulfil your purpose on earth – and seeking strength to complete it? This is me, often – although, obviously not a prophetic mission (!).
- Fearing seemingly huge obstacles and asking for help – Moses and Aaron ask God to help them against the powerful Pharaoh: ‘”We fear lest he hasten with insolence against us, or lest he transgress all bounds”. (20:45)
God’s reply is simple and conclusive: ‘”Fear not, for I am with you: I hear and see (everything)”‘. (20:46)
That’s all I need to know.
And lastly, I became present to God’s vast compassion as He addressed the sadness of Moses’s mother² at losing her son: ‘But there came to be a void in the heart of the mother of Moses…Thus did We restore him to his mother, that her eye might be comforted, that she might not grieve, and that she might know that the promise of Allah is true…’ (28:10, 13).
The story of Moses reminded me of God’s forgiveness, generosity, power, support, reassurance, love, mercy and compassion today. Exactly what I needed to hear to know He’s definitely there on the other side of the dark smoke.
And in case you’re wondering, the photo is the view from Mount Sinai!
² Moses was spared from death by being sent down the river in a basket, where the Pharaoh’s household found him. He was adopted by the Pharaoh’s wife, but would not suckle until his own mother was brought to him as a wet-nurse (28:7-14)