As I painted this small and rather weird portrait of Moses, I meditated on his asking God to “show me your glory” in this coming Sunday’s reading from the Book of Exodus. It struck me as odd that someone who has encountered God again and again throughout the course of the narrative still seems so insecure about God’s involvement in his life. Of course, in the Exodus narrative this insecurity stems from a moment when God has threatened to abandon the people after the Golden Calf incident, so it’s justified by the story that surrounds it. But as I painted I found myself reflecting on my own insecurity, my own need to be reassured, again and again, of God’s presence.
I’ve had several deep religious experiences in my life – one about every ten years. So I have no doubt that God exists and, more than that, wants to be in relationship with me. Yet I often fall into periods of practical atheism. That is, I might know that God exists, but I act as if God doesn’t. I convince myself that I’m alone, that everything is up to me and that no one is going to help me. Throughout the Exodus narrative, there are moments when Moses seems to be going through exactly the same thing, and he has much more direct experience of God than I do. When he comes to these moments of practical atheism, he always manages to reorient himself, mostly by asking God to show up and reassure him. And God does, again and again and again.
So this painting is really a prayer. May I have the courage to ask for God’s reassurance. May I be reassured that very little depends on me. May I be able to see and acknowledge God in all the ways that God shows up — in the burning bushes, the parting waters, the mana from heaven, the mountaintop moments, and the anguished dark of my private insecurities.