One of my dad’s favorite sayings was, “Can’t, never did nuthin’!” I am not sure where that came from, whether it was a Kennedy family saying, his personal philosophy or just something he thought was funny. (Dad did have an odd sense of humor and often said random things and then just smile about it not caring if anyone else thought it was humorous or not.) But he said “Can’t, never did nuthin’” often enough that I kind of think it was how he viewed things; especially in regard to his faith.
“Can’t” to dad, meant that God was not big enough, capable enough to do what He said. “Can’t” closed people’s minds and views…and hearts. In the book of Exodus, chapter 3, Moses encounters God after he spies a bush that, while burning, is not consumed. In that encounter God lays out his plan to rescue his people, the ones who are in bondage in Egypt. No there is no doubt that God could have just made this happen on his own but his intention is to include Moses in the process. Moses’ response? “I can’t.” God’s response? “I will be with you.”
That seems like it would have settled it, but it doesn’t. In the next chapter Moses says, “I can’t” again. There are a few things to consider at this point. Thankfully, for Moses’ sake, God doesn’t obliterate him. That may be extreme but it wouldn’t have surprised us if God just said skip it with Moses and found someone else. But there also has to be something deeper going on with Moses. He has been in a position of great privilege before. He has been highly educated in Pharaoh’s realm. He has been a physically strong person. (He killed another man with his bare hands, after all.) He is in a heart to heart talk with the Lord himself and yet he can’t see it, can’t believe it, can’t do it. Can’t has him. Then the Lord asks Moses an astounding question: What’s in your hand?
“What’s in your hand” is profound. In a sense each of us is already equipped to do precisely what God would have us do. It is already in our hands so to speak. A gift, a skill, a character trait, an insight – even an ordinary piece of wood; a walking stick. It is there. But lurking deep within was the paralyzing “I can’t” and Moses pleads with the Lord to pick someone else. This time the Lord does get angry but he also comes up with a plan B. Moses is told to invite Aaron, his brother, to join him but says this,
I will help BOTH of you speak, and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it. Exodus 4.16,17
As an aside, plan B is never as good as plan A. (Aaron creates some really nasty issues later on.) But God can redeem Plan B and make it work. For that matter, he can make plan Z work, if necessary, simply because, well, He can. And because He can, so can you. Just make sure you remember what’s already in your hand.