I was a local gas station waiting to fill up my cup at the soda fountain. A woman and her young daughter were ahead of me, and the mother was apologizing for her daughter’s slowness. I assured her I was in no hurry, and she responded by saying, “Well, she’s just as slow as Moses all the time.”
I am pretty sure this was a malapropism, and she intended to refer to the common saying, “slow as molasses.” Moses and molasses do sound alike, even though they don’t look much alike.
My first thought was “what’s so slow about Moses?” But then I realized—everything is slow about Moses. Remember the 40 years in the wilderness? The time it takes to pour molasses from a jar has nothing on that.
Molasses is slow because of its viscosity. Such a thick, sticky liquid just can’t move any faster. Moses was a leader of a viscous people. They were clingy, sticky, complaining, resistant to change, and reluctant to move anywhere. It took them 40 years to pour out of Egypt and into the promised land, as they learned in that wilderness time in between how to trust God, live as a community, make decisions and take responsibility, mature in their leadership and actions, and found a new society together. They just could not move any faster.
The work of change in human communities is painfully slow, and it takes lifetimes, generations. My passion is to work on this kind of communal change and reorientation in the church, but I imagine that, like Moses, it will take my entire career, which I hope will span more than 40 years. Because the work of leading change is as slow as Moses.