By Kristine Schroeder
“If this is the way you will deal with me, then please do me the favor of killing me at once, so that I need no longer face this distress” (Num 11:15).
When I heard that line in a recent Mass reading, I had to smile. Wow! Moses, humble, obedient Moses, appears to have lost his last ounce of composure. Did he truly wish for God to smite him down, or was he having one of those breakdown moments we all have when the struggles of this world overwhelm us and solutions are elusive.
After all, Moses carried a substantial responsibility. Thousands of displaced Israelites were nomads, leaving hearth and home to find a promised land supposedly flowing with milk, honey and more. The longer they spent in the desert, the less that goal seemed a viable reality. They grumbled. They needed bread. God supplied manna. They grumbled. They needed meat. God supplied quail. They continued to grumble. Even those gifts (a sign that God was truly with them) were not sufficient to convince them of His everlasting love. Therefore, they turned to false gods, false promises.
Their routine remained monotonous. They demanded more proof that this journey was not in vain and that they soon would experience the dream offered. In the meantime, they needed a scapegoat, someone they could pin the blame on; and who better than Moses, the guy who talked them into this mess in the first place. Instead of being grateful for God’s assistance and Moses’ willingness to again-and-again plead their case to God, they chose to wallow in anger and self-pity.
I have read “The Diary of Anne Frank” at least six times. Somehow, it seems to parallel Moses’ story. Eight Jewish people are safely hidden in an upstairs apartment for two and a half years. Mr. Frank (who originally owned the building) is much like Moses. He continually works to keep peace and bolster everyone’s spirits. The Gentiles (former employees of his) who work downstairs willingly risk their safety to see that the inhabitants of the Secret Annex are given food (admittedly bland and meager), books and news of the world. Yet, there is still dissension and pettiness among the seven. It appears that they are ungrateful, but it is important to take a deeper look.
In both cases, the end is not in sight. In fact, there is no set time when the people are assured their struggles will resolve themselves. The journey across the desert is long and arduous. Never able to go outside for a walk or meet a friend for a chat stretches the patience of the occupants of the Annex. Ultimately, in both situations, it is the uncertainty of the situation that breaks the people’s spirit.
We will all face those times; times of uncertainty when a favorable end seems impossible or at best, distant. Times of monotonous routine when it seems our wheels spin, but we gain no ground. Times of grumbling when we feel no one (especially God) is listening or worse yet, cares. We struggle to be grateful for the blessings we have, but our reset is to notice only difficulties or disappointments.
That is when we feel like Moses. God, do you care? Are you listening to me? St. Theresa of Avila once told God, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few.” I love that line! She directly expressed her frustration with her current situation, and I imagine that God must have smiled at her impertinence.
Difficult periods require much patience, prayer and time alone with God to directly express how we feel. Adoration offers such an opportunity. During that time, we need to implore God to grant us the grace to recognize the gifts our struggles blind us from.
This quote was recently sent to me during a difficult week, “Sometimes a miracle arrives as a small shift, and not a full-blown change. Be awake for these tiny changes, embrace and nurture them.” That is another reminder that God is with us always, even when we can’t see Him.