“Who put you in charge?”
I was the middle child and my older sister was always the one “in charge” when the parents had to go somewhere. I was so angry whenever I wasn’t given any responsibility; after all I was mature for my age.
The first time I was in charge of anything was when I was 11; looking back I can’t believe I was in charge of anything at that age! Our neighbors desperately needed a Saturday babysitter and back in that time, it wasn’t unheard of to have such a young babysitter. I think I must’ve only been a couple of years older than one of the kids I was looking after. My mother was home every Saturday and we lived just a few houses down the street, so she was always available if I needed her in case of emergency (which thankfully was never necessary).
The caveat for me was earning money, I had no money and the thought of having a few dollars to spend on whatever 11 year olds spend money on was exciting. I was going to be in charge! I was going to tell everyone what to do! Once my parents agreed with the neighbors, I spent 7 hours on Saturdays watching the their children for $1 per hour; I’m quite sure that $1 was low even in that day and age. In any case, being in charge and making $7 per Saturday was great until I realized, when I arrived for my first 7-hour shift, that on top of having to babysit, I needed to serve lunch and cleanup. There were responsibilities attached to being in charge that were no fun at all. What a rude awakening! I found out while I was in charge on Saturdays, I wasn’t really in charge. I had someone I answered to and things to do that were attached to increased responsibility. There was a danger if I didn’t do my job well then I would lose those precious $7 that I so desperately wanted.
No, being in charge wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.
As childish as it may sound, our desire to be in charge follows us well into adulthood. It is evidenced by all the disagreements that arise among us when something needs to get done or be organized. “Who put so-and-so in charge?” is often one of the questions that can be heard buzzing around. Committees are formed in an attempt to address discontent but committee meetings often end with two or three groups opposing one another. One group’s demands angers the other and the drama begins. No wonder it takes so long for anything to get done!
“Oh, if we just lived as they did in Bible times! If we could’ve been alive then, people would act better.” is one of the laments I’ve heard over the years. Where do we get all of our examples from – the good and the bad? From the Bible where examples of great characters of faith and greatly flawed characters can be found. Human nature, from good to bad to downright ugly has gone unchanged since the dawn of time. From the first sin in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve took charge and ate the fruit, until today when churches split over something as frivolous as the color of the carpet in the building – people have wanted to be in charge until the responsibility of that charge comes to light. Once the consequences of being in charge arise, being in charge isn’t so great after all.
Moses, who we know to have been as close to God as someone on earth could be (see Exodus 33:11), was a deeply flawed human being. However, for all his frailties, God used him to deliver his people from Egypt. Moses was, by all accounts, the reluctant leader; he wasn’t campaigning for the position to be Israel’s deliverer. In fact, if you read the account of Moses’ life in Exodus, you’ll see he tried to talk God out of His plan to use him – he actually angered God in the process.
Exodus 4:10-15 NKJ “Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ So the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.’ But he said, ‘O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.’ So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and He said: ‘Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. Now you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth. And I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do.’”
The world’s first “vice” leader was Aaron – how Moses found the courage to argue with God is something I fail to fathom – and Aaron walked with Moses throughout the miraculous departure of 5+ million people of Israel from Egypt. He witnessed the plagues, the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea, and many others besides, yet he having seen all that he did was not immune to wanting to be “in charge.”
Numbers 12:1,2a NKJ “Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. So they said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?’…”
I can almost hear Aaron saying, “Who put him in charge?” Perhaps he, together with Miriam, thought that he had just as much of a “right” to be calling the shots. It may be that they thought if they were in charge, God would speak to them as He spoke to Moses. What they didn’t take into account was what happened in the second part of verse 2 of Numbers 12: “And the Lord heard it.” He heard them complain and the outcome wasn’t what they had hoped it would be (see Numbers 12:4-14). God “had a talk” with Miriam and Aaron with Moses present, angry that they “spoke against” Moses. Miriam bore the brunt of the punishment and was leprous for 7 days and was outside the camp. The desire to “be in charge” caused the whole nation to stop for 7 days until her leprosy was healed.
Who is in charge? I hope not me! But if I’m ever chosen for any kind of leadership position, I will be a reluctant leader, one who isn’t craving that authority. I understand that filling those shoes comes with responsibilities and burdens that are far greater than any “perks” that may accompany that position. There are dishes to be washed, messes to be cleaned up, and complaints to be heard about how things are going or not going – and there’s Someone I have to answer to.
Sometimes, I just don’t need to be the one calling the shots, and that’s ok with me.
I hope it’s understood that I’m not advocating remaining under any abusive situation. On the contrary, if a situation is abusive we need to remove ourselves. Abuse, however, isn’t disagreeing on carpet colours or a change of venue and time.
My mother used to say, wisely, “If you’re going to be angry, make sure it’s something worth being angry about.” And really, most of the time we get angry all too quickly.
Just food for thought.