When was a time that you felt overwhelmed?
Flooded by a force that knocks you down emotionally, or overtakes your mind entirely. Our system becomes overstimulated, and as a result, we may space out, or shut down. Even our bodies are affected, as the coloring in our face may change, and our breathing may quicken. When we feel overwhelmed, we may be able to realize the effects on our mind and body, but we are often blind to the effects on our soul.
Before coming down Mount Sinai bearing two stone tablets with the ten commandments, Moses had an experience of the divine that utterly overwhelmed him. Typically when he joined God on the mountain, a cloud would descend upon them. It was a surreal experience that enabled Moses to smell and hear God, to nearly touch and taste God, but he could not see God’s form.
Moses had just reconciled with God on behalf of the Israelites, following the golden calf episode. He turned prayerfully to God and asked to see God’s glory. God explained to Moses that no mortal could see God face to face and live. Instead, he would pass by Moses, revealing the back of God’s form.
As God passed by, he proclaimed:
It was so entirely overwhelming to Moses that he was changed from the inside out. He fell to the ground, worshiping God.
Afterwards, God gave him the ten commandments, and Moses descended down the mountain prepared to share the good news of God’s love with his people. Still, seeing God so profoundly affected Moses that he was unaware of the way his outer appearance had changed. The skin of his face shone with such a brilliant radiance that it was blinding to anyone who tried to look upon it.
When Moses came strolling into camp, a heavy silence fell upon God’s people. They were so completely overwhelmed by the blinding light that was walking towards them that they cowered in their tents, afraid. Even Aaron was afraid to move towards the creature of light.
It wasn’t until they heard Moses’ voice calling to them from behind that immense light, that they dared come forward.
It really was Moses, after all. Moses began to reveal to them all that had happened on Mt. Sinai, sharing God’s commandments with God’s people. Afterwards, Moses put a veil on his face to dim the radiant light which overwhelmed the Israelites. Whenever he would go and see God, he would remove the veil, only putting it back on after sharing God’s word with God’s people.
Think again of a time when you were overwhelmed.
How was God present to you during that time? Or maybe if you are feeling overwhelmed at this moment in your life, you might ask yourself, how is God present to me right now?
Who’s experience do you identify with more?
Moses, ever eager to draw closer to God. Letting God’s radiant light and peace pour over you, invigorating you to move forward.
Or maybe you identify more with the Israelites, feeling stuck and afraid of the unknown. Uncertain at what is coming towards you, anxious to hide in your room, hopeful that when you look up again the scary moment will have passed.
It doesn’t take much to feel overwhelmed by the disquietude of this world. We become stuck, caught up in our fears and anxieties, slipping down a spiral of despair that can feel quite difficult to escape. Yet because we are in a covenant with God, because we are in a relationship with God, we are called to go to God when we are feeling overwhelmed.
Like Moses, we ask God for what we need. Moses needed to see God. And when he was courageous enough to ask God for what he needed, what did he get? Not just a tiny glimpse, rather he was engulfed by the radiance of God’s presence, so much so that the radiance remained with him.
The Israelites were afraid of the unknown and needed God’s assurance. And as they cowered in their tents, feeling stuck and afraid, they heard the voice of God’s prophet calling them to come forward, assuring them that it really was alright.
What is it that you need from God?
Whether it’s to get unstuck, to go deeper in your relationship with God, to overcome the disquietude of this world or your life--God is here and ready to answer. Amen.
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The Rev. Jane R. Dunning, Priest Associate
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