So the thought occurred to me that maybe Moses, at the burning bush, was dealing with culture and language fear/anxiety. For whatever reason, in my head, I thought Moses had a speech impediment or major confidence issues, and maybe he did. Or maybe it was language brain rewiring (link). Of course, other things may have been in play, but bear with me. Read through chapter 3 & 4 of Exodus.
But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.Exodus 4:10
In chapter 3 and into 4, God talked to Moses! That alone is a miracle and impressive. There is also intense dialogue and signs/miracles showing God’s power. Whenever I would read this I would think, “surely, if that were me, I would have gone to Egypt without hesitation.”
So having moved to Colombia, in some ways, I feel like I’ve regressed in my Spanish. Keep in mind, I grew up in a Spanish speaking country during my formative educational years. Based on language assessment tests, I qualify as a native speaker. Yet, I find my self fumbling and frustrated trying to communicate complex ideas concisely. My brain is rewiring. I may have grown up speaking Spanish in my childhood but I spent my other half of my life in an English speaking country outside of the latin context. My Spanish got rusty. Just because I know the language doesn’t mean I can now effortlessly use it for professional communication.
I wonder if there was a cultural and linguistic element to Moses’ hesitation and lack of confidence. Yes, there probably was also guilt and shame because of the way he left Egypt but let’s not forget fear. Maybe Moses was thinking, “but Lord, I want to go but talking politics/religion/legal stuff in a royal court. Not sure my brain can wrap around that any more.” Moses had been in Egypt 40 years. Surely he knows the language and the culture. But he also live 40 years away. That’s enough time to put his main language and culture on the back burner.
So here is what’s amazing about God…
Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.Exodus 4:14
He sends Aaron. I just figured he was more eloquent and had better oratory skills… and maybe he did. But I think it’s becasue Aaron has been living in Egypt. His language and cultural abilities were current. He was able to talk with proficiency within the current cultural context of Egypt.
So where does that leave us? For those of you who are in cross-cultural/linguistic ministries, have courage. I don’t think God would have given the task to Moses if Moses wasn’t capable of accomplishing the job. There would be challenges and there wasn’t a guarantee it was going to be a breeze either. No matter what stage you are in the language acquisition process, persevere.
Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.Exodus 4:12
God has given you the capacity to accomplish His mission, it just may not be the way we idealized and romanticized cross-cultural ministry in our minds. Don’t forget about your national partners. We may never become fluent in our second language or culture and that is ok. Moses had his Aaron and we have our national partners.
Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.Exodus 4:14-17
God has provided people in our lives that can be our hands and mouth. We are designed to have relationships and collaborate. So don’t do it alone. It won’t be easy and there will be conflict. But…persevere because God is with you and be encouraged because fellow believers are with you.