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During my college years, I was one of the most involved students
known on campus. From working in the Writing Center to being a reporter for the school, and local city, my work life was busy. However, so was my personal life. I led the Dance Team, helped with two to three worship teams at a time, invested in running and working out, had field experience for teaching, and was eventually student-teaching. I somehow managed to snatch my first boyfriend, too!
On the outside, I was thriving. Everyone around me saw me as happy-go-lucky. Joy exuded from my presence, and I loved life. I was happy, carefree, and passionate. But over time, I grew weary. And my Grandma was someone who saw this first.
“You need to take a break, Amber.” Her soft lips spoke what I didn’t want to hear.
“I think you are over-extending yourself and too, busy. You need some time for yourself. I’m afraid you’re going to eventually burn yourself out.” Her words muffled over my ignorance to listen.
I was set in my ways.
I was also in denial.
The Error in Ignorance
At the time, I truly did not believe her. I was busy and stressed, but I loved it. That’s just who I was. But looking back now, I am ashamed to admit that she was right, and I wish I would have listened to her sooner.
Today, I am a twenty-seven-year-old girl who feels like she’s surviving rather than thriving. I have been diagnosed with nearly half a dozen mental and physical health conditions, and I can’t help but think if I would’ve listened to the wisdom of my Grandma when I had the chance, my life would look much different.
In Exodus chapter 18, I believe that Moses’ interactions with his Father-In-Law Jethro teach us a similar lesson.
The Fruit in Obedience
After leading the Israelites through the Red Sea and freeing them from Pharaoh’s wrath, Moses is called to be the leader of these people. And Jethro, his Father-In-Law, saw this:
“Now Jethro, the priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro received her and her two sons. One son was named Gershom, for Moses said, “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land”; and the other was named Eliezer, for he said, “My father’s God was my helper; he saved me from the sword of Pharaoh.” Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, together with Moses’ sons and wife, came to him in the wilderness, where he was camped near the mountain of God. Jethro had sent word to him, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons” (Exodus 18:1-6, New International Version).
But upon his arrival, Jethro becomes concerned.
Moses is certainly leading the people. But he’s also the only one handling their additional affairs. And to me, that sounds a bit exhausting, and a bit like teaching or running on empty 365 days a year.
“The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions” (Exodus 18:13-16, New International Version).
In my mind, I picture many of the conversations:
The Weight In Responsibility
“Moses, Bob’s cow stepped on my sheep, and now both have injuries. What do we do?”
“Moses, Sara ate my extra portion of food. How is that fair?”
“Moses, my family sinned today. How many offerings and sacrifices do we need to bring?”
“Moses..” the list grows on as his mind grows fuzzy. And in an odd sense, I can relate to this moment.
“Amber, did you write that article?” my boss would question.
“Amber, we need you to work another shift.” the Writing Center would request.
“Amber, our dances need some extra practice.” the dance team would note.
“Amber, we need you at three additional teacher meetings after school.” the state would require.
And just as Moses began to push on, so did I. But like my Grandma, Moses’ Father-In-Law grew concerned.
“Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied” (Exodus 18:17-23, New International Version).
The Gift of Wisdom
At that moment, Moses had a choice: to listen to Jethro or to ignore his advice. And I believe there is a reason the Scriptures talk about learning wisdom from our elders. That there is victory in gray hair and learning from our experiences.
Perhaps that is why verse 24 reads as follows:
“Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said” (Exodus 18:24, New International Version).
Not only did Moses learn from Jethro and take his advice, but he was better off in doing so.
“He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves. Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country” (Exodus 18:25-27, New International Version).
The intent of many elders’ advice is not to offend or provoke; it is to bring peace and help from years of wisdom. While many may grow opinionated at times, or give outlandish and outdated advice, most seek out our best interests at heart. Moses knew this with Jethro, and I knew this with my Grandma. But unlike Moses, I chose to be stubborn and go my own way. I would give anything to go back and listen to her advice.
Be Open to the Gift
In life, God may call us to great and magnificent things. Things far greater, wider, and bigger than we could ever ask, plan, or imagine for ourselves. However, He never asks us to do so for the expense or sake of ourselves–our health, and sanity.
It was not good for Moses to handle so many affairs on his own. Neither is it good for me and you to think we are super-humans who can go 75 miles a day, 7 days a week without a pause. There is a reason for the Sabbath. For Selah. For sharing our burdens with one another to lighten the load.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, New International Version).
This is a lesson I’m still learning, but I encourage you the same: Listen to those who give you advice. Their advice may not be what you want to hear, and they may not always be right. But if they love you, it is worth a listen. They might just have your best interests at heart.