A Moses Moment
Missing the Big Plan
I didn’t grow up reading the Bible, so reading it as an adult always opens new doors for me. I’m continually amazed at how something written thousands of years ago – even before the advent of business casual attire – has such relevance today. I’m awed how these ancient writings can guide a modern world that is built on e-mail and cell phones (both of which, I believe, God appropriately wiped out in the Great Flood, and only recently allowed back into Creation).
I found another example of helpful wisdom recently in the book of Exodus. It turns out that Moses was just starting his on-the-job-training when he led the unruly Israelites out of Egypt. But while Moses set the standard for effectively leading a dysfunctional group, my management style more closely resembles that of his brother, Aaron.
God spends nearly a dozen chapters of Exodus giving Moses explicit instructions about building the tabernacle, including the altar, the mercy seat, and the lamp stand. He even provides details for the curtains and the incense. (Unfortunately, however, there is no mention of the color of the carpeting, which has necessitated generations of church board meetings over the years.)
Amidst these extensive instructions, God shares with Moses the assignment He has for Aaron. God tells Moses that Aaron will become a high priest in the new order of worship. God clearly has big plans for Aaron.
While all of this conversation is going on, where is Aaron? He’s at the bottom of the mountain, listening to the whining of the people. They’re all bummed, because they haven’t heard from Moses for more than 40 days and they’re worried he forgot about them. So Aaron, the future inaugural high priest, instructs the people to melt down their gold and make a golden calf to worship. Not only does he lead the people in the wrong direction, he doesn’t even take responsibility when Moses finally comes down the mountain and asks what’s going on. “Aaron said, ‘Do not let the anger of the Lord burn, you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil’” (Exodus 32:22, NASB).
Thus was created the first rule of the “Looking-Out-For-Number-One” school of management: when things go wrong, blame the employees.
I identify with that story because I like to think God has big plans for me. I claim the oft-quoted verse Jeremiah 29:11: “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” But rather that live according to His plan, I’m off building my own idols: my title, my résumé, my 401(k). While God has great plans for me, I’m ignoring His direction, following the crowd, and trying to hitch my career to the next big company project. I’m running a race without asking where God wants me to go.
In my defense, it’s easy to miss God’s big plans at work. The urgent too often crowds out the important. No sooner do most of us walk into work in the morning than the deadlines, e-mails and ringing phones get us focused on the crisis du jour (which is French for “crisis that is just enough different from yesterday’s crisis to cause me to enjoy a brand new headache”).
But my hope that God has big plans for me keeps bringing me back to seek out His will, even in the midst of – or because of – the chaos at work. And when I do miss the signs God provides me, I take solace in the Exodus story. If God can still use Aaron after the golden calf thing, he can probably use me, too.
I just need to have the good sense to realize the difference between building something that is in God’s plan and a golden calf that seemed like a good idea at the time. (If only it wasn’t for the folks I work with, so prone to evil…)
When have you focused on your idols instead of God’s big plans for you? Have you ever discovered God’s big plans for you in the midst of your work?
Tom Petersen works at a company in the Midwest, where he processes e-mail, attends meetings and recalibrates management expectations. His book of essays on work and faith is currently lurking outside of publishers’ back doors, trying to meet a naïve editor. Contact him at www.HisWorkInProgress.com.
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