Faith Featured

Holding Up My Arms

Written by Maralee Bradley

We have recently been studying Moses at church. I love his adoption story, how God uses his weaknesses, and how honest Moses is with God. But it’s been a different part of his story that has seemed to come alive to me over the last few months.

Moses said to Joshua,“Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Exodus 17:9-13

Okay, so maybe it seems weird that a passage basically about war has been feeling relevant to me. But each morning I feel like I crawl of out bed and up go my arms. There’s a battle going on in this house and I’m overseeing it. A battle to make order out of chaos. A battle to create joy and peace and harmony with a houseful of uncivilized heathens. A battle for the hearts and souls of my precious kids and in so many ways it feels out of my control. There’s a lot I can do to impose external regulations on them and create an environment where success and performance are rewarded, but the actual work of heart change is something I can’t do. It’s in those moments that I feel the ache of my arms, raised in the hope that my impact is making a difference.

But I keep coming face to face with the realization that I can’t do it alone. This idea and imagery of the support Moses provided and the support he NEEDED just keeps coming to my mind. While Joshua is doing the actual fighting, Moses is standing there overseeing and participating in the only way he can, but he can’t do it alone. He needs the physical help of Aaron and Hur to keep him going. I thought about that imagery a couple months ago when a crew of women from church came and spent hours painting and deep cleaning our home as we prepared to sell it and my pregnant body wouldn’t let me do much to contribute. And then again a month later when friends and family showed up to help us move, even assembling beds and deep cleaning kitchen cabinets, arranging furniture and unpacking boxes so we could quickly get our five kids settled in. And then just a few weeks ago when my mom and my sister came and made freezer meals for me to use after the baby shows up. And again as within the last week my mom came to deep clean the corners of the bathroom I can no longer reach, a friend dropped off lunch, two friends offered to bring meals, and a host of our family and friends came out to support us in the adoption of our foster daughter. This has been a season of seeing the value and beauty of community. And the necessity.

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It would have been within the power of God to say, “And when Moses gets tired and is ready to put his arms down, that’s when we’ll wrap things up with a dramatic victory.” But that wasn’t what happened. When Moses got tired the work still needed to be done, but now he needed help. It’s such a familiar feeling to me. At 38 weeks pregnant, my kids haven’t stopped needing me to be present in their lives, but my body is reaching its limits. I’m exhausted physically and emotionally, but the battles continue. Do I give up because I just can’t do it anymore?

There is such a beauty in surrendering my need to be everything to my family. The reality is that I can’t do it alone, all I can do is pretend to do it alone which doesn’t help anybody. I can act like I’ve got this covered, but then I rob my community of the ability to contribute and I rob God of the glory he gets when we serve each other. It’s hard to be the one served instead of the one serving. It’s humbling, but it also creates a sweet interdependency within The Body. And it’s something you don’t soon forget.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”
Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. 
Exodus 17:14-15

The moments where our arms are lifted up, where others come and help keep us going, where we see God at work, those are the moments we remember. Those are the moments we want to tell our children about to show them what it means to be The Church. God is great and his greatness is often manifested through the work of his people as they support each other. We aren’t a society that’s big on altar building or writing on scrolls, so I’m thankful for pictures and status updates and blog posts to remind me of this time when I needed help and God provided it through his people. I want to remember these things so when I am in a new season I will be able to give back in the same ways it has been so generously given to me.

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For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:35-40

About the author

Maralee Bradley

Maralee is a mom of six pretty incredible kids ages 8 and under. Four were adopted (one internationally from Liberia, three through foster care in Nebraska) and two were biological surprises. Prior to becoming parents, Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and had the privilege of helping to raise 17 boys during their five year tenure.
Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her family a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries and doing it all for God’s glory.
Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood on “A Mother’s Heart for God” and what won’t fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at www.amusingmaralee.com.

1 Comment

  • This was so very timely for me. I have been in the throws of a huge season changeover project for the Foster CARE Closet and feeling overwhelmed and over blessed and undeserving in all this chaos. I have climbed up and down stairs 1000s of times in the past two weeks. I have carried totes to numerous to mention from here to there and back again. I have listened to praise and worship, fort ball and volleyball games and taken “time puts” with my 4 little ones. I have gone home, only to literally drop onto the couch or bed. HOWEVER, through it all I have NEVER BEEN ALONE! I’ve had strangers come and help, offer words of encouragement and I have my faithful volunteers righting the ship when I go astray. Sometimes actual, physical people have carried me through and other times it has been the strength and might of the Holy Spirit leading, cheering me on. Either way, your reminder that the most important work is not done in solitude, but community was much appreciated and a welcome drink to my thirsty soul.