There's this scene in Exodus when Moses's father-in-law, Jethro, comes to visit the Israelite camp after they have left Egypt and secured themselves, relatively, into their journey. Jethro witnesses Moses sitting in a certain spot all day - the Bible tells us that he was doing so on this day, but does not necessarily imply that he did so every day - answering the questions and settling the disputes of the Israelites.
And Jethro tells him that's no good. He can't take care of this many persons by himself. He's just one man, and this cannot be a one-man show.
These are words that we need to hear. At least, they are words that I need to hear. I'm the kind of person who is prone to just picking things up and taking care of them herself. Something needs done? I'll do it. We have plenty of time? Great, I'll get right on it. It needs done yesterday? I'm already halfway there. There's just something about me that is the kind of person who sees something that needs done and...does it.
This often, of course, leads me to a place where I end up doing more than I can reasonably do by myself. I take on more burden than I am able to carry. I shoulder more of the world than I was meant to. And of course, there always comes a breaking point.
It's something that I've gotten better at over the years, although I confess that there are still some tasks I continue to do because they were part of my one-woman show from many years ago, and I haven't found a way to break free of them yet. The thing is that once you take something on, you feel kind of guilty if you realize you shouldn't be doing it, even if you realize you shouldn't have done it in the first place.
I bet Moses had part of this feeling himself. He probably judged one case, and then someone else brought him another. And he thought to himself, gosh, I can't not judge this case when I already judged that one. And then he decided that if someone was earnest enough about wanting to hear from the Lord that they'd bring their case to Moses, hoping that he'd talk to the Big Guy for them, then he would do it. If the people were going to be faithful, then Moses was going to faithful. It was as simple as that.
And that's (probably) how Moses found himself sitting in a certain place in the camp, answering questions and settling disputes all day.
Now, Moses was smart enough to listen to his father-in-law's wisdom when Jethro spoke. Maybe his soul was desperate to hear those words - you've got to stop this. You can't keep this up. Maybe Moses's spirit already knew that and was looking for a way out, but couldn't get past the guilt of deciding where he draws the line on something he seems to have already committed himself to. But Jethro speaks, and Moses listens, and the whole dynamic of the Israelite camp - and the dynamic of Moses's life - is changed because of it.
But did you know that Jethro said more than we often remember in this story? He said more than we often even think we read. Because we're so quick to read his word about Moses, which resonates so deeply with so many of us - you're overextending yourself. You can't keep this up.
But there's something else. Something else extremely important that Jethro said to his son-in-law that day in the Israelite camp.
What was it? I'll tell you tomorrow. (Or, hey, you can cheat and go read the story yourself. But even then, you might not catch this.)