04/02/2013 12:37 pm ET Updated Jun 02, 2013

God to Michael: Who Do You Think You Are?

I've been reading the Book of Exodus. A few verses a day. In the bathroom. (Sorry.)

Most of my writing is about politics. On a good day, I believe that I have something to offer that can be of real value. Like many writers, however, and many other people with a contribution to make (you?), I encounter resistance to doing my work. (For example, at this point, after writing all of 62 words, I suddenly want to stop and find a link to Steven Pressfield's book about resistance, along with public-domain images of Moses and Pharaoh, all of which I could add to the post.)

Usually I just act out — or feel the pull to act out — the manifestations of resistance, but occasionally I get in touch with a deeper truth: I'm scared. Scared I'll put a whole lot into a piece and it won't come together. Scared that I don't know enough, that my biases and ignorance will make me put something out there that will lead to exposing what an idiot I am. But mostly really scared that what I've been told about the book I haven't quite gotten published is true: that what is trying to come through me is really needed by the world and will be snapped up. If so, I'll go from being safely invisible to really being out there.

Then I might be attacked. Worse, whatever I thought would happen when my mother told me that I was getting too big for my "britches" will befall me. Etc., etc.

Exodus as Inspiration

Idea: why don't I get some inspiration by reading about a reluctant prophet? Hence the Book of Exodus. (Not that I compare myself to Moses, except for observing that I've put in my 40 years' wandering in the desert before doing anything noteworthy.)

Exodus seems to be right on target. God to Moses: "I have a job for you. Go tell Pharoah to let my people go, and then lead them out of Egypt." Moses, after looking behind him to see who God's really talking to: "Who, me? To begin with, I can barely put a coherent sentence together." [Unvoiced: "And I'm afraid to be visible, don't want to get too big for my britches, etc., etc."] God: "Don't worry; I'll have your back." But Moses keeps protesting.

This is looking good.

After more rounds of the same dialogue, however, God gives in, frustrated: "Whatever. Get your brother Aaron to do the talking. You just tell him what I said. And to get the attention of skeptics, throw down your staff so it turns into a serpent."

This is not the inspiration I was looking for. (Nor a viable solution. My brother declined to even post his emailed thoughts on one of my previous HuffPost pieces as a reader comment.)

Maybe I should find a good biography of MLK; I hear he had his struggles and doubts, too.

Or maybe Exodus will get better. I keep reading, as the days pass. Moses and Aaron carry the message. The People develop hope. Pharoah will have none of it. God has the brothers issue warnings of plagues, then He carries each one out. Every time, Pharoah begins to relent, but then obstinacy returns to his heart.


Somewhere between the Nile turning to blood, and the hail storm, a terrible thought strikes me. What if it's not Moses who is supposed to inspire me? What if Pharaoh is the one I should identify with?

You see, there are more ways that I struggle than the one I'm willing to reveal here. My outer circumstances are relatively fortunate, but the way I do life, and think about it, can still be pretty challenging. I've come to believe that, at the root of my difficulties, is my usual experience of myself as a separate, isolated person. I think I must pull myself up by my bootstraps to fix the flaws that get in the way of living the life I want to live. Surely there has been progress, and when I see it happening, I often know I am being graced with it, not making it happen. But I forget, all the time.

Occasionally I take in the possibility that what is happening here — i.e., in the locus of Being, or Spirit, or God/Goddess/All-That-Is that looks like my body and appears as my voice, thoughts, and feelings — is simply the manifestation of how Being wants to express itself here, in a particular unique way. All I need to do is relax. And pay attention. This thought is immensely comforting.

But mostly I forget and live in "my" supposed aloneness. (Think Waylon and Willie singing Ed Bruce's song about cowboys: "They'll never stay home and they're always alone, even with someone they love.") And with that separation comes my thinking that it's my job to make happen what I need to happen in my life, or want to happen, or think is supposed to happen.

In my layered self, part of the surface layer, the thinking one, gets it. So does the deepest layer. But I mostly live in a middle layer, where the experience is what I just described. What I get at the other levels is that if I finally surrendered to Universal Will, let go, let It express Itself through me however It wants to, stopped fighting to be who I think I am or who I think I am supposed to be, everything would be OK. Probably a whole lot better than OK.

But how many plagues will it take before I give up?