Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Identity Crisis

Have you ever suffered from an identity crisis? 

Perhaps from a job change or a relationship change? 

I remember when I became engaged and the wedding day was drawing nearer I told some of my friends that when my maiden name changed to my married name that my former self would no longer exist. 

They laughed of course and so did I but deep down I struggled with the fact that my name change almost felt like my single self, the Jenny Ryan self, that person who existed for 27 years would

I was experiencing a slight identity crisis. 

Jenny Ryan was the second oldest of 4 siblings. A younger sister to one sister and an older sister to one brother and 2 sisters. As well as being a half-sister and step sister to a few others. My “sisterhood” and “single status” were about to change. 

Alterations were soon going to be made with my being a daughter, and an aunt. Let's not forget, a whole troop of cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents from my side and my husband's side of the family. 

In my readings about Miriam, I wondered if perhaps she also struggled with an identity crisis? 

The verses in the Bible to which I am referring are found in Exodus 2:4-8, Exodus 15:20-21, and Numbers 12: 1-15. 

When we first meet Miriam, in Exodus 2: 4-8 we are not told her name. Instead, we are told about a baby who is placed in a basket in the water and that his sister is watching him. 

She is described only as his sister and that she watched the baby from a distance. As she watched she would be certain to alert their mom if anything were to happen to the baby.  

What can we learn about her from this phrase, “his sister?”  We know that she is older than the baby otherwise she would not have been given the responsibility to watch over the baby.

We also learn that she has initiative. When Pharaoh’s daughter and her slave girl discover the baby in the basket, the sister asks if she should go get a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby.  When she is given permission to do so, she naturally, she seeks out her mom.

Although she remained unnamed in these verses in Chapter 2, her role was important. She ensured that her baby brother survived his time in the basket. Ultimately, the sister was an important part of God’s plan for His people.

Several chapters later we learn a little bit more. 

Exodus 15:20-21 (NIV) "Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. Miriam sang to them: 'Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and rider he has hurled into the sea.' " 

What do we learn about the baby's sister? 

We learn that:
  • The baby's sister's name is Miriam
  • That she is a sister to Aaron (as well as Moses)
  • She is a prophetess
  • She plays the tambourine
  • She danced
  • She leads the people in singing and dancing
  • She praises God for saving them from the Egyptians
We also learn that at this time in her life, her heart is right with God. She joyously praises Him and gives Him thanks. 

But there’s more. 

Miriam, like so many of us, also had struggles in her life. Sibling rivalry appears to be at the core of her being when we meet her again in the book of Numbers. 

It can’t have been easy for her to be an older sibling and to watch her youngest brother, Moses, be called by God to be the leader for the Hebrews. 

Leading God's people was not what God called Miriam to do. 

I can imagine the resentment, the envy, anger and jealousy which she must have felt because she criticized Moses for his choice of wife. (Numbers 12: 1)

Miriam said that God spoke to her and Aaron, as well as with Moses. True, however it was different and these verses give us some insight into how Miriam was really feeling. 

God heard what was being said and spoke to the three siblings. He explained that he spoke to various people differently, however the way he spoke with his humble servant, Moses was more personal and direct. 

Miriam's punishment for stirring up trouble was leprosy. A dreaded disease which isolated her from the others. 

Aaron begged Moses to pray on her behalf. Thankfully, when Moses prayed, God indicated that isolating her for 7 days from their encampment would suffice.

Makes you wonder if Miriam spent those 7 days of solitude in remorse and asking forgiveness and seeking God’s grace.

Miriam, like us, was human. She knew how to please God and like us, she made mistakes. 

She learned her place her family, as well as her place with God. 

You and I learn this as well. 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for Miriam and for what we can learn from her and her brothers. Help us to acknowledge the call that You have on our sibling's lives and on our lives and to be thankful for these differences.  In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Photo Credit: These pictures were taken in and around the village by JennyEBurr

Other By His Grace Posts of Interest: 

Winter Is

The Unexpected

Mending the Broken Heart