For the first couple decades of our lives, there seem to be somewhat clear milestones laid out ahead of us: Make it through middle school alive (that’s a big one), get a driver’s license, graduate highschool, move away from home, go to college (or trade school, or get a full-time job).
But it doesn’t take long before suddenly…all of that is in the past.
A few months ago, I was feeling overwhelmed by the lack of clarity ahead of me as my college graduation was rapidly approaching. I couldn’t help but wonder, What if “progress” is a thing of the past and I get “stuck” in the monotony of life? I felt a sense of fear where excitement should have been—for many reasons, but partially because this new stage of life seemed way too normal, maybe even on the verge of mundane.
Maybe you relate? We’ve all felt a lack of color in life at some time or another. I know many people who find themselves working less-than-exciting jobs. I know stay-at-home moms who are, quite frankly, longing to share conversations with human beings over the age of five.
Maybe “mundane” looks entirely different for you, but it’s times like these that we can be encouraged by the life of Moses. His story is such a beautiful reminder that what we see and feel today is only a part of the grander narrative that God has laid out for our lives.
When most people think of Moses’ story, they think of a baby left in the reeds and taken in by Pharaoh’s daughter. They think of Moses’ call in which he encountered God at the burning bush. And—most notably—they think of the Exodus and the events that followed: Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt and back toward the promised land.
But… We rarely talk about the eighty years between his birth and his call.
For forty years, Moses’ Hebrew roots were kept secret as he lived under the care of Pharaoh’s daughter and was raised an Egyptian. As a part of Pharaoh’s house, he was kept from slavery, lived a more privileged childhood, and may have gained insights into the inner workings of the Egyptian palace (Exodus 2:1-10).
After acting out in his anger and killing an Egyptian who was beating one of his people—a Hebrew—he knew his identity had been revealed (Exodus 2:11-14). He escaped to the land of Midian, married the priest of Midian’s daughter, and worked as a shepherd in the wilderness. (Exodus 2:15-3:1). Another forty years passed.
At eighty years old, he was called to return to Egypt and (by the Lord’s might) free his people. God appointed Moses to lead the Israelites in the great redemptive work that they had been praying for for hundreds of years.
We often talk about the mountaintop moments—like the Exodus—in Moses’ story. In doing so, however, it’s entirely too easy to pass over the mundane. But think about it: For 80 years, Moses was the outsider. He hid his identity as a Hebrew to preserve his life while in Egypt. In Midian, he considered himself “a sojourner in a foreign land” (Exodus 3:22b).
I wonder what it felt like to be separated from his people for 80 years. Did Moses feel like the God of the Hebrews had deserted him? Did he even know of or believe in this God?
I wonder if his life ever felt monotonous. When he woke up every day during his 40 years in Midian and went out to tend the sheep, did he wonder how a man who grew up in Pharaoh’s household could be “demoted” to a life such as that?
That’s all speculation, of course. I can’t know exactly what Moses thought and I wouldn’t want to pretend like I can.
But here’s what we can know from Scripture…
Moses lived eighty years before God called him to step up as the leader of Israel. Only on this side of his story can we look back on those years and see that God was preparing him for this “mountaintop moment” all along.
If any Hebrew should have approached the Pharaoh, it was Moses. He grew up and was educated in that household. He learned political leadership—vital for anyone attempting to assemble and lead an entire nation of people.
And if any Hebrew should have led the Israelites through years of wandering in the desert, it was Moses. He spent forty years in Midian, tending flocks and learning how to survive in the wilderness.
There wasn’t anything particularly special about Moses himself. But God used Moses’ specific circumstances to carry out His great plan and free the Israelites from slavery.
There was purpose in those 80 years of apparent monotony all along.
Life is not made up of mountaintop moments alone—those come and go. And often, they are surrounded by monotony.
We can rest in this: God may use a season that feels purposeless as a time of preparation. Moses experienced 80 years of preparation, completely unaware of the great responsibility that would be bestowed upon him later in life.
How about you? Does life feel less-than-exciting at the moment? I’d encourage you to pray to see value in today’s monotony. Pray that He would help you live well—never taking the day for granted. This can be a time to deepen your faith in Him, to grow in character, to love and serve those around you in a way that’s unique to this time of life