By Eugene C. Scott
It’s an unusual–irreverent–but accurate translation of Exodus 33:23 where God answers Moses’ request with, “I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I’ve passed by. Then I’ll take my hand away and you’ll see my back.” Literally the text reads, “you’ll see my hinder part” or “backside.”
And some say God has no sense of humor.
Obviously all biblical references to God’s body parts are anthropomorphisms, God using human characteristics to communicate to us something about himself. God–as Spirit–has no hands much less a backside he could moon us with.
So, what’s God’s point in showing Moses his backside?
Like Moses, I too have yearned to see God. Those nights, days, hours, months where the cold, wet drizzle of doubt chills me to the soul, I get lonely–for God. Just a touch, just a glimpse even of his backside would make all the difference in the world.
During Lent our faith community is exploring ways to see God–or at least draw closer to him. We have discussed and practiced confession, making room for God, listening to God, silence and becoming servants. It’s been thrilling and challenging. God may have even mooned us a couple of times.
Today for example. A group of us partnered with a few students and teachers from Dakota Ridge High School (the school The Neighborhood Church meets in for worship) in a service project. Sixteen of us traipsed over to a senior living center and spent some time with several Alzheimer’s patients. All in different stages.
We each paired off with a woman patient in the room. We were to greet them with a smile, clasp their hands, look them in the eye, introduce ourselves, and eventually compliment them. We were to be present to them no matter how present they could be to us. I found myself talking with a woman laying back in a recliner, holding a pink piglet stuffed animal. She was deep in the disease, unable to respond at all. My heart sank.
Still I took her hand, I smiled, I introduced myself, I complimented her on her piglet doll. In return she drooled. Touching her shoulder, I prayed God would fill her and–though she could not hear me–speak to her between her damaged brain cells. That she would see God with the eyes of her soul.
Beyond our awkward silence, the room grew noisy as the students interacted with the other residents. I stroked her hand. Her skin moved under my hand but that was all. I fell silent.
I wonder what her name is, I thought. I turned and asked the woman in a rocking chair behind me. She thought for a moment, looked around and then shrugged. An aide walked by and I asked her.
“Crystal,” the aid answered hurrying by.
I turned back and again took Crystal’s hand. “Crystal,” I called out to her loud and sure.
At that she jolted, opened her eyes and in jerky movements squeezed my hand.
“Crystal, I love your piglet doll. I bet one of your grandchildren gave it to you.”
She jolted again and began chattering, if mumbling can be chatter. Now my smile was real. I understood not a word. But I didn’t need to. Later she held her milky eyes wide, tears filling the wrinkles on her gray face as the kids came by and hugged her saying, “It was good to meet you, Crystal.”
Unexpectedly, I saw God’s shadow there in Crystal’s fading face.
Like Moses–like Crystal–I ache to see God, his glory, his power, his healing: to hear his deep booming voice say, “Peace. All is well.”
If I could see God–I tell myself–then I could believe, live right then I could step out into some crazy God-idea like not worrying, or starting a church from scratch, or loving my enemy, or living by faith not fear, or–some days–getting out of bed.
Instead God moons me, shows me his hinder parts. Funny thing is that God’s hinder part may be all we can handle seeing this side of eternity. Moses didn’t seem to mind. And rather than an insulting high school prank, being mooned by God may be a fantastic privilege. Today he showed up in an Alzheimer’s patient.
Eugene C. Scott writes the Wednesday Neighborhood Cafe blog. If you’re reading this on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com. Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO
Beginning on March 13–the Sunday following Ash Wednesday–we will begin a Lenten series titled “Embrace: Discover, Desire . . . Jesus” at The Neighborhood Church. During worship we will explore those things of God we can embrace and add to our lives as a response of love to Jesus. These worship gatherings will also include hands-on opportunities to practice these things God asks us to add to our lives. Join us. See tnc3.org for worship times.