Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two covenant tablets in hand, Moses didn’t realize that the skin of his face shone brightly because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw the skin of Moses’ face shining brightly, they were afraid to come near him.
I just realized that there is a huge untapped market for a Moses’ Face Plug In Night Light ®. It would be a little plastic Moses holding the ten commandments, with a light bulb for a head to help your little one sleep peacefully. First time Christian parents go nuts over that sort of stuff. Patent is pending, so don’t steal my idea.
Can we reflect on the things that others see, but we can’t?
I’ve been talking with people lately about the slow work of transformation, and how we often feel like we take one step forward and two steps back in faith. The more we work on ourselves, or should we say, the more we allow Jesus to work on us, the more we realize just how much we have to learn. It can be discouraging. And it can look to us like we’re not changing at all. But interestingly, we’re not always the ones who have the best view.
This story of Moses is so interesting. He’s been spending serious time with God on a mountain. Over a month straight, in fact. And he comes down and everyone knows that he’s different— his face is literally giving off the radiance of God— but he has no idea that’s the case. He can’t see the glow. Now I get that there weren’t mirrors readily available, but you would think Moses would have had more of a sense of just how much he had been impacted!
A number of people in our community are doing an 8 week journey toward emotional and spiritual health that requires them to pause twice daily and sit with Jesus for several minutes. The goal is to be changed simply by learning to delight in the presence of God. It’s not easy to learn. And some are feeling like it’s not making much of a difference. But when I talk with them, I can see otherwise. Because as we change, we aren’t always able to sense it. The process of discipleship is slow growth. It’s incremental, moving by inches and not by yards as the days go by. And just like it’s hard to sense that a plant is actually growing by sitting in front of it and staring for hours on end, it’s also difficult to notice our own slow growth toward Jesus when we are in our own bodies every minute. We need to trust that change is happening as we lean into God, even it’s hard for us to pinpoint ourselves.
But here’s the lynchpin to the whole idea: we have to actually be present with God to be transformed into something. That doesn’t happen from wishful thinking or good intentions. It happens when we have spent enough time in the presence of Jesus for Jesus to rub off on us a little. We may not always notice the change ourselves, but others will. They’ll notice that we play less by the rules of the world around us and more according to the rules of freedom, grace, and compassion. They’ll notice that we are quicker to think before we speak, that we are slower to pridefully throw stones at another, and that we can handle setbacks and hardship with patience rather than bitterness. They’ll see our glowing faces. But unlike with Moses, they won’t be afraid. They’ll be refreshed. They’ll be surprised. And they'll be invited into a world that is not devoid of goodness as they fear, but full of the grace and beauty and redemption of the living God. The light of God that shines from our faces will illuminate the dark places of despair, injustice, hopelessness, and sorrow.
Luke writes that when James and John are questioned by the Temple priests, that the priests were astonished at how these uneducated guys were able to speak their faith, and they took note that “they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). I just love that. I wonder if the disciples felt like transformed people all the time, or if they just felt like normal guys who were trying to do their best to be faithful to Jesus.
Let’s continue to sit with Jesus even when it doesn’t feel like we’re changing, because we are. Let's continue to pursue God and faithfully walk with God even when we can’t tell a difference. If we do so continuously, not out of a sense of obligation, but with a desire to know nothing more than the love of God and be nothing more than an imitator of Christ, then our faces will show God’s light to neighbors and enemies alike. And then we’ll realize that it doesn’t always matter if we see it or not, because it will still be seen by the world we are called to love to and serve.
Jesus, slow me down to patiently receive your transforming love today.