No Excuses

After I graduated from college, I was a teacher for seven years.  My first year was in Van Buren County and the other six were at White County High School.  The majority of my time at WCHS, Mr. Charles Dycus was the principal.  I don't remember which year or every detail, but there was an inservice that Mr. Dycus spoke with the faculty at the start of the year that really made an impact on me.  He came up to the podium and held up an index card with the word "excuses" written boldly with a sharpie.  He then explained what excuses were and how much better of a faculty we would be if we eliminated them.  Excuses about why we were not at school on time, why our grades weren't completed, why we couldn't get paper work turned in...etc.  He said if any of us began to make "excuses" to him he would hold up that index card to them.  I'm not sure if he ever really did that, but it really made me consider if I was guilty of making excuses myself.  I knew I didn't want that index card held up to me.

I quickly realized that, yes, I was guilty of making excuses not only at work, but in other areas of my life as well.  I thought about times when I didn't get something finished when I was supposed to at work or home, my first tendency was to blame someone or something else.  There can tend to be an external reason why we don't do what we are supposed to do.  What is the point of this reaction?  Is it to save face with others or not make ourselves look bad?  It really is a pride issue.  I have since learned to be more aware to own up to my errors and just be honest with myself and others.  Not that I do this every single time, but I have caught myself having to make a conscious decision to take responsibility for myself before I am about to blame someone or something else for something I know it was all on me. 

There are genuine reasons why we can't get something completed that we say we are going to do.  Sometimes life gets in the way and real things come up over which we have no control.  Yet many times, it is just because we put other things ahead of it or we are just being lazy.  However, we should strive to keep our word and let our "yes be yes, and our no be no (Matthew 5:7)."  And, when can't follow through, we need to own up to it and be honest about why we couldn't.  One of my biggest problems is that I overcommit.  I have a hard time telling people no when they ask me to do something.  I then spread myself too thin and get stressed out.  I am learning and working on this one, but I still find myself in situations that I ask myself, "What was I thinking saying yes to this????"

I am studying the book of Exodus right now and even though the story is very familiar to me, there are still details that stuck out to me when reading this time.  I love reading through the Bible in order, rather than just by story.  Anyway, I am in just the first few chapter where Moses is being called to go back to Egypt and lead God's people out.  I knew that he made excuses, but I didn't realize how many he made to God. 

Almost everyone knows the about Moses and the burning bush.  Here is this scene from The Bible Series on The History Channel:
In a miraculous way, God called Moses to do a mighty job that could only be accomplished with God's help and power.  Moses' reply was, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?"  God's reply was, "Certainly I will be with you and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain." (Exodus 3:11-12). 

Moses felt inadequate with the task God called him to do, and he most certainly was.  However, God audibly spoke to Him through a bush that was on fire and not burning up accompanied by many promises and assurances of His help through it all.  He gave explicit details about what he was do to and how people would respond, including Pharaoh. 

Moses' response to this, "What if they don't believe me?"  To this question, God allowed Moses to use turn his staff into a serpent and back into the staff again.  He also turned his hand into leprosy and then completely restored it.  God then said that He would allow him to take water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground and it will become blood. 

Moses' reply to all of these miracles was, "Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.  He was trying to get out of the task that God had called him to do.  He was afraid and perhaps had a problem with insecurity.  I would imagine that speaking to a large group of people would be the last thing a person with a stuttering problem would be eager to do. 

This made me think of Lazaro Arbos, a contestant from American Idol this season.   He had a severe stuttering problem, yet when he sang, he didn't have trouble at all.  He had to overcome many obstacles and was inspiring to see his bravery to be willing to even try out, much less go on television for all the world to see. 

We don't know if his stuttering problem was to this extent, but God's reply to him was profound, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind?  Is it not I the LORD?  Now then go, and I, even I, will be your mouth, and teach you what you are to say." (Exodus 4:11-12).  However, Moses asked God use someone else.  At this point, "the anger of the Lord burned against Moses." (Ex.4:14).  Even though God was angry at him for continually making excuses of why he could not possible do what God wanted him to, God told him He would let his brother, Aaron be his mouthpiece.  So, finally, he obeyed. 

Moses went to Aaron, then to the people to tell them that God has heard their cries and has not forgotten His people.  He and Aaron went to Pharaoh just as God commanded, but it didn't go well.  The Pharaoh made their work more difficult and required the same amount to be completed as before. The Hebrews were angry at Moses because they blamed him for their worsened conditions.  Again, Moses questions God, even though God told him from the beginning how Pharaoh would respond.  God spoke to Moses again and told him what to do.  He obeyed, with no excuses this time.  However, this time, the people wouldn't listen to him.  This would be discouraging for anyone, but for Moses, who had already had such a struggle to do what he was told to do, I am sure he was completely defeated. 

He went back to God and asked how Pharaoh would listen to him if God's people wouldn't listen to him.  He blamed himself for it all because he was unskilled in speech.  He took this personally, even though it was GOD who had hardened Pharaoh's heart.  It had nothing to do with Moses' speech.  God had some leaders from the tribes of Levi to go with Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh, but Moses was still complaining to God about being unskilled in speech.  (Ex. 6) 

At this point when I read this, Moses' excuses were getting a little exhausting.  I just wanted to say to him, "man up".  God is right there and He is going to do great and mighty things right in front of your eyes.  Of course, I know how it ends and I'm not right there in the midst of the battle.  I then tried to apply this to myself.  How many times have I made excuses to God of why I can't do something He wants me to do?  Like I said earlier, I know I have been guilty of making excuse to others, but God is the One I should be most concerned about.  God chooses the unexpected to work through in order to show Himself and His power.  If Moses were eloquent in speech, then he might be tempted to think it was because of what he could do and not God. 

There is hope, though, even if we find ourselves feeling completely inadequate, afraid, or insecure and making excuses to God.  Look what He did through Moses in spite of his many reasons why he could not do what he was called:

God will always equip us to what He calls us to do.

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