The Exodus:5 Project
The LORD came down in a cloud; He stood with him there and proclaimed the name LORD. Exodus 34:5
It is the rare person who is able to overcome the early impressions of his or her upbringing. Our researchers have shown the impact of families in which substance abuse, violence or bullying is part of a parent’s behavior; much against promises to themselves, children have a proclivity to imitate what they know. Similarly, children who are taught by example to love and respect others are more likely to replay what has been modeled. Of course, it is not the case that each of us is cloned from our forebears. However, often the most pronounced qualities in a parent show up in a kid.
We have all sorts of idioms and clichés that validate these notions. The apple does not fall far from the tree. He’s a chip off the old block. Like mother, like daughter. And despite the admonitions to the contrary from the Bible forward, children are indeed held responsible for the sins of their parents.
To be sure there are parents who expect to be validated through their children. But I believe that mostly parents hope that their children will be better versions of themselves. I know how much satisfaction I take in the accomplishments of my kids on their own terms and how much gratitude I have to see them integrate their gifts and values into a whole life with greater skill than their father.
I also know that I can watch my adult children and have better knowledge of what I have modeled for them than I might have intended when they were an idea and not a reality.
This past year I had the opportunity to be a part a project that was initiated by my daughter’s workplace. I was given some minor responsibility for the project and then told who would be supervising me. It was that same daughter. I suggested to her that the line of authority would be better served if she called me by my name during meetings than if she showed me the deference and respect of referring to me as she always does, as Abba.
It has been very satisfying to watch her skills and wisdom on display. It has been instructive to return to the family dynamic when we are out of the workplace. I don’t know how things would play out if we had a serious disagreement in one realm or the other (I am certain that there are family businesses that face this all the time), but there is no getting past the generational hierarchy when we are family.
When listening to a podcast the other day, I heard an author suggest that God created the first human being because God was lonely. It is not a new idea, even if the riff was that Adam was no cure for God’s loneliness. It spurred me to consider, however, that the Holy One may have made a rookie mistake. That first human being (and the rest of us) was created in the image of God. And if even a part of the motivator was loneliness, then being lonely was also part of the image of God. Seeking to create a child who would do better, God nevertheless had to have embedded loneliness in the make-up of the earthling. Seeing the divine image in another for the first time, God realized – and said – it is not good for a person to be alone.
Adam could not cure God’s loneliness, and neither could the generations that followed, even the women and men willing to engage directly, if such a thing is possible. Some followed a call, some pleaded for a favor, some sang sweet songs and some offered devotional gifts. But God was always God, never a friend or coworker or partner.
At least once more, however, God tried. Who was a better candidate to assuage God’s loneliness than Moses? Moses noticed the lonely God in the wilderness in the middle of a burning bush. He allowed himself to be ordered and cajoled into the mission of liberation. He climbed the mountain to hear God’s instruction and he was prepared to recarve the tablets and teach the liberated slaves.
So God came down in a cloud; God stood with Moses there and proclaimed the sacred name.
Call me by my name, God asked of his lonely servant.
The rest, I think, is commentary.