I was considering recently a story that should be familiar to anyone familiar with the Torah ~ the story of how while wandering the desert for 40 years the Israelites won the Battle of Rephidim against the Amalekites. In the time the Israelites wandered the desert before finally entering the Promised Land, they had more than a few battles to fight beyond those waged against those who were enemies. They had to fight for the faith to believe in their promise and learn to trust God for His provision. It wasn’t always easy, but then nothing in life ever is… Nothing worthwhile.
Where’s the fun and satisfaction of getting things easily?
In this particular battle, Moses realized as he watched the fighting unfold that the Israelites were winning when his hands were raised and losing when they were down. The obvious implication being that all Moses had to do to ensure victory was hold his hands up. No big deal, right?
Wherever you are, I challenge you to hold your arms out like a T with nothing in your hands while you read the rest of this blog. Don’t wave, don’t jiggle, don’t do anything, just hold your arms out.
How long can you endure it?
Now try the same thing with something no bigger than a glass of water. How long can you survive this one?
What about using a textbook or small kettle bell instead?
A bucket filled with water?
A bag of cement?
A minute? Five? Fifteen? An hour? It doesn’t matter that you have nothing in your hands any more than it matters how big your muscles appear to be, you won’t last long. Whether you actually did any of those exercises or not doesn’t matter either, your brain is already yelling at you for even considering attempting those feats.
Moses only needed to hold his arms up long enough to allow the Israelite army to prevail in battle against their enemies. That could take time, though, and any breaks would result in lost ground and therefore a longer battle.
Yet, Moses couldn’t hold up his arms long enough to see the battle through.
Who among us could hold up our arms for any length of time? Thinking of the most phenomenal athletes I’ve known, barrel chested soldiers to ballerinas, I can’t think of anyone who could stand in one pose, let alone with arms extended like that, for any real amount of time. Snipers may have to lay in wait for days before their target is in their sights, but they would obviously be a tad bit conspicuous standing up with their arms out. Ballet dancers often spend time as living scenery where they must pose on stage for scene after scene. Some street performers have perfected the art of standing in poses for a long period of time. I think we all know what it looks like when a child is holding up their hand for more than 30 seconds: as if their bones suddenly disappeared and their arm has become jelly is a child made to wait with their hand in the air.
All Moses had to do was hold out his arms but he could not with all his will or his faith force himself to keep his arms outstretched!
He got tired. His body became weary. His spirit weakened. And his hands were going to eventually drop.
We all know what it is like to feel like even the simplest issues are too much for us to handle or deal with. We all know what it is to feel like we can’t do it any more. We all know how it feels to be too weak to carry on. It doesn’t matter if it is from the baby waking up screaming for the 23rd time tonight or if it is the feeling of hopelessness that comes from remembering a brother who died in your arms or the feeling of despair from facing a diagnosis or disease that can change or end your life.
We all know.
Moses couldn’t do it… not alone, anyway. His closest companions came alongside. When Moses could not even stand, let alone raise his arms, his closest companions held his arms for him, lending their strength when he had none of his own.
Just as Moses was lended strength when he had none, I often find gifts of hope, optimism, and faith come when mine is sorely lacking. It doesn’t matter if the battle I’m in is one for my life, my limb, or my loyalty, when I can no longer stand and when my strength fails I still find myself with arms outstretched…
Thankful for those who bolster my waning stores of hope, optimism, and faith.
Though I’m not a raving fan girl of Emily Dickinson (I admit it), I love this poem. It reminds me of those truest of the true who always seem to be there when you most need the gifts they bring and the strength that’s being shared while never expecting a favor returned.
It’s a beautiful soul that always gives, yet never asks or seeks praise, and the kind of soul that understands unconditional love.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers
By Emily Dickinson
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
Powerful poem for a powerful word.
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Oh my dear Emily, one and only.
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