At Northern's Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, Ruth Haley Barton was our speaker. A graduate of the seminary, she is the founding president of the Transforming Center (www.transformingcenter.org). She gave a very challenging address called: "Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership" based upon the experiences of Moses. With great freedom of delivery she stepped out from behind the podium (though she lost some sound!) and developed the story of Moses primarily in terms of his learning about solitude - about his 40 years in the wilderness seeking God in solitude and (only then) doing what God tells him to do. As she said, his leadership before this solitude was raw, unrefined and disastrous as he stands up for his people by murdering the oppressor! But in the silence and brokenness of his subsequent time with God, he learned to let go these old (dangerous) coping strategies because his soul was strengthened in new ways. Old coping strategies are replaced by qualities of soul.
I cannot do justice to her 40 minute address in this brief post but as she told the story she concluded with Exodus 33:12-23. As she challenged us that "there is no promised land worth going to unless God goes with you" she pointed out what she regards as one of the great leadership verses in Scripture, Exod 33: 21: "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock." Of course, it needs to be set in context as Moses asks to see God's glory, but I confess this was the first time I had noticed this verse. That, coupled with the challenge to develop greater solitude with God, has really stuck with me.