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Option B

Option B

Date:10/25/20

Category: 2020 Sermons

Passage: Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Speaker: Nicole Trotter

I do not know why God kept Moses from the promised land. There are theories, including pointing to scripture, when God says Moses broke faith in the presence of the Israelites. But if you read for as long as I did, you find other arguing against that. I wanted an answer so badly that I kept reading and reading, as though I would at some point find some definitive answer that would make it ok, because it felt to me to be so unfair, even cruel. Why would God deny this great prophet, teacher, law giver, servant – why would God deny him his final destination? If I could find that answer, I would finally have a sermon, and I became a detective, scrolling through pages and websites, and books from seminary.

I read for three hours, and then, finally, gave up. If it was this hard to find an answer, and I certainly wasn’t the first to try, then maybe, I was focusing on the wrong question.

So I went back to the scripture – and back to the beginning.

These past few months we’ve followed Moses in the wilderness, because of all the rich metaphors wandering the wilderness lends itself to during this pandemic. We’ve followed like the Israelites towards God’s given destination, we’ve witnessed Moses leading a people who grumbled and complained, as we do, people who were hungry, thirsty, angry. Moses consoled, prayed to God on their behalf, occasionally grumbles himself, argues and pleads with God, changes God’s mind, intercedes for forgiveness, and on and on and on. 

Until finally, in the end, Moses is kept from entering, and we are left wondering: why would God be so cruel? We’re left wondering; but we’re never told that Moses is wondering, or disappointed, or forlorn, or losing faith.

Moses kept going, and going, and now in this scripture, denied entry but living out the rest of his years,from a room with a view of the land he had been promised.

These are the words of Mose: 

I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has said to me, “You shall not cross the Jordan.”...

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid...for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you....Then Moses said to Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous....The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

***

We’re the ones who project this image of Moses as living the rest of his life as the proverbial picture of unfulfilled dreams and failure. But those words we heard him speak are anything but. Those are the words of someone who has, despite everything that’s happened to him, has learned resiliency, trusting in a God he says will never forsake you, urging those who will go on without him to keep going, to be strong and courageous.

Being strong and courageous doesn’t mean keeping a strong upper lip or walking around in denial of what's heartbreaking. It means allowing yourself to be vulnerable to what is real, and in doing so simultaneously opening yourself to all that is precious, like life itself.

Moses, I imagine, looked out his window each morning and each night. I imagine he did so at times angry, at times hurt, at times with gratitude for being able to see the vision still, for being held by God in the final days of life. I don’t imagine him faking false optimism or picking the power of positive thinking. No, not Moses – the man who argued with God, stood up to God, interceded, and at times demanded. This is a man who God passed over, and the glory of God and the goodness of God shown down upon him. Moses, I imagine is not longing for something he won’t have, but embracing what he does: a room with a view, a most honorable retirement from complete dedication and a mantle to pass on.

Moses is not the picture of unfulfilled dreams; he’s the picture of resiliency.

***

In 1989, Julie Mozilo was newly married and pregnant with her first child, and on July 17th discovered that the life she had planned came crashing down around her. She learned after being called into the police station that her husband had methodically planned and carried out the murder of his father.

She writes:

The words that I was hearing were getting caught somewhere between my ears and my mind, and I had trouble even understanding them. Learning that the man I had planned life and a family with could do such a horrible thing buried my head, my heart, and my hope for the future in darkness. Newly married at twenty years old and seven months pregnant, my young adult life and everything I trusted about it were gone.

As she saw it she had two options before her.

Option A, (she writes)the path I believed was mine, was now obliterated.

As much as I wanted to move forward and back into the light, reminders of that day and darkness were inescapable for the next several years. Salacious Sunday-paper headlines and evening news stories about his case were a regular occurrence. Sometimes journalists would take pity and leave my name out of print. Other times they would not. My hometown community whispered. My faith community judged. Friends walked away. All while sordid details of the act and the dangers that my unborn child and I faced because of it were revealed. His trial and sentencing to twenty-two years to life brought even more press coverage and chatter.

But in that time of darkness, my beautiful child was born. Even though it was dark, my desire to move forward turned into a need to move forward. The need begat a will to move forward. And I began to see that I had options for my life, and my daughter’s life, other than those that were crushed. I would find Option B, and it would be good.

Finding Option B was a process that was not easy. It required me to step out of complacency and into action.

As I navigated the divorce process, I had to use my voice in a new and assertive way, something that was not my normal. Being strapped with all of the financial obligation in the divorce and fighting finance companies over debts he incurred tested my negotiation skills. I faced and dealt with the overwhelming emotional fallout of fear, loss of trust, anxiety, and betrayal. I had to hold tight to the people that were helping me move forward and supporting me even if they didn’t agree with me. I also had to set boundaries and even let go of some relationships that kept me stuck.

For the first time, I was truly choosing to happen to life, rather than letting life happen to me. I was choosing resiliency.

There were moments when I had to simply rely on a will-do attitude, rather than a can-do attitude. Self-doubt and defensiveness challenged me. At times, I wanted to sink back under what felt like the weight of the world. But as I took accountability and responsibility for shaping my future, and that of my daughter, I began to see every place where I had choice in what life would become. I decided that my life would be a life of victory, not of being a victim of his actions and the judgment and darkness they brought.[1]

For the first time, I was truly choosing to happen to life, rather than letting life happen to me. I was choosing resiliency.

***

That's the greatest lesson this story of Moses teaches us. While we’re tempted to imagine him in his lonely room of unfulfilled dreams, Moses went on to choose option B: to happen to life, rather than allowing life happen to him.

To happen to life is an unfolding. It allows us to face the hard truths of adversity and unfulfilled dreams, turning your face in the direction of the sun--in a new direction, away from your original destination, finding another way home, with the God who is always creating, never abandons, providing us with every ability to choose option B, with God.

Amen.

         [1]https://optionb.org/category/resilience