Exodus

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After 400 years of captivity as slaves is the momentous narrative the great exodus of the Israelites, called out of Egypt to their promised land.   It is the beginning of a long road where God consecrates them. To consecrate means to set apart, to be made holy.

To become holy is humanly impossible to do yet we are to strive for it.  Only God is holy.  He also is the Master Redeemer and the one who in the end rescues us from ourselves. He redeems Israel from over 400 years of Egyptian bondage with  6:6-7 as a key verse in the book.  Before the Jewish exodus from Egypt, a safeguard from the final calamity to Pharaoh and his people, the Hebrews were instructed to put the mark of lamb’s blood above their doors to identify the Israelites then the spirit would pass over them.  This would protect the Hebrews with the promise that it would “not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.” (Ex. 12:23). This Passover lamb’s blood is one of the descriptions that point to the future Jesus’ as an atoning symbol of the lamb at His crucifixion.

Being on an exodus is not always a fun journey.  Not knowing where to go plus the uncertainty about life’s provisions is a hard- place to wander.  An exodus can be the start of our personal reformation.  Sooner or later in life, all face the dilemma of leaving behind the enslavement to various self-serving passions and pleasure.  It may not be like the account of trekking around in circles in a desert for forty years but still, the journey usually is circuitous, indirect and complicated.  Exodus assures us of Gods promises (four main ones are found in 6:2-5, 6-8).

All parents fear the possibility of the dreaded call about their child being in a car accident.  Our parental nightmare came when one of the children was driving on a back road in the county, going too fast around a curve while leaning down to pick up an object from the passenger side floorboard of his jeep.  He hit the edge of the road which had a small drop off to the ground, lost control and the vehicle turned onto a culvert along the side of the road, flipping three times.  The removable hard top popped off the Jeep as the vehicle rolled. There was no other car involved or other passengers.  The driver was not wearing a seatbelt.

Driving a car length behind were his siblings. When they drove up on the accident, they got to a neighboring house, called for medical help and notified us.  He survived with a right arm compound fracture from his holding on to the steering wheel while his body thrown and twisted around inside the car but thankfully not out of the car.

He survived a severely broken right ankle which put his college running scholarship at risk as well as any future in the sport professionally or for leisure.  He survived a concussion and head lacerations.  It took three surgeries over a year’s period to repair the injuries, mainly on the ankle.  Doctors said to forget about him competitively running.  Long story short, and not to minimize the work involved, my son retrained his body, is a competitive runner today and has rebuilt his strength and endurance. The style of his running gait is a bit unusual, but he makes it work. I remember the attending orthopedic doctor said that everyone gets hit by a train in life; the trick is how young someone is regarding the recovery time.  His age at his recuperation confirms this.  As the manufacturer’s warranty expiration date on my physical body comes closer on this road to ageism, my resilience and rebound from things take longer.  Thank God for doctors, but they don’t know everything.  As parents, we withheld the doctor’s opinion from him not being able to run as before.   I’m sure the doc knew that and told him anyway. After a years’ worth of surgeries and recovery, my son tried to resume competitive running.  It was his “exodus” to come out of that situation, to learn about himself, his limits and with God’s help, what he was made of and could do.

One of my first “exodus’s” also could fall under my version of experiencing an “Ecclesiastes.”  Not as physically demanding as my son’s exodus, I instead was in a lingering place of uncertainty with no clear sense of direction for myself outside of being a wife and mother.   I counseled with my Pastor about it, voicing that I was seeking some validation of who I was and my purpose.  It has been said about  and to me that there isn’t a personality test or other assessment I didn’t like. I have gone on to learn personality can change particularly through trauma in life but basically, my temperament is akin to a golden retriever and a beaver (to borrow from John Trent and Gary Smalley’s book The Treasure Tree) and I have a complex personality type. This analysis was helpful in figuring some things out about myself when I read a devotional that posed a question to stop instead and ask God what he thinks about me? Who does He say I am?

There was a spiritual gift workshop being held in a nearby city that Pastor recommended I attend.  I found each workshop segment was sandwiched in prayer. Some prayer was in community prayer others in a silent prayer offered up in-between each of the spiritual gift assessments and discussion.  During one of the silent prayer time scheduled, I had a version of a theophany.  God spoke to me (inaudible to others) in my prayer.  In this sense, when God communicates, it isn’t always through human language as such, but instead, it is through His incarnate words  (in a still small voice [cf. 1Kings 19:11-13]) to the soul.  In this case, during prayer, a loving thread weaved itself through my life’s tapestry up to that point, connecting past circumstances and events in a congruent way when an opening appeared before me.  I sensed it was an opening to my future.  It was as if I was given the opportunity to see myself in the future.  I interpreted it as God opening this door, beckoning me through.  To go through it, would be to go into my projected future.  Seeing the future was an overwhelming thought to contemplate.  As was my fearful (respectful) humility about being in such proximity to God’s Holiness.   Humility, a word the world would have us believe is thinking lowly about self rather than a healthier way to look at it is as a radical self-awareness from a distance outside of self. C. S. Lewis says humility is thinking of yourself less (and more about others).

Then I remembered the story of Moses in Exodus 33:22. Moses is mediating between God and Israel after a particularly sinful period of the Israelites.  God favored Moses effort and gave him some signs and wonders for the nation to see.  At one point, Moses asks God if he could personally look on His face to see his Glory.  God said no because first humans aren’t Holy and to view Him would overpower and overwhelm the faculties of mortal man.  Yet Moses was near enough to this glory that he veiled his face to prevent the Israelites from being destroyed by the mere reflection of the divine glory (Ex. 34:29–35).   Theologian philosopher G. K.  Chesterton (1874-1936) compares it in relation to the sun:  “The one created thing which we cannot look at is the one thing in the light of which we look at everything.”    It was (and is) believed no one while still sinful (in human form) could grasp the sight of God’s essential, glorious unmasked holiness and live.  I stopped the theophany and didn’t go through the opening. I felt like the invitation positioned me too close to God (as crazy as that sounds) to see my future. It was more than I could handle spiritually.  Perhaps I felt a bit like King Saul who hid ( cf. 1Sam. 10:22) when he was first called by God to this new course in life.  I was thinking out of the context of who God is and his power and only of my strength and whether it was enough to see what lie in the future?

I left the conference that day with a clearer measure of understanding of who I was.  I recalled Moses petition: “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you.” (Ex. 33:13).  My personal discovery left such an impression on me that I really got into studying personality and spiritual gifts, ending up using it in a capstone thesis and used it professionally in my work environments.  The slippery slope with Spiritual gifts is it can go to experiential feeling of faith and become works oriented. The balance is to remember who gives the gifts of grace and what He has done to secure salvation. That is more important than making faith as human(as in self) centered.

It is interesting to think about those in the Old Testament who did see the face of God.  There are around twenty-five or so who did.  Whenever anyone considers the face or speaks with an angel, they saw the face of God as being the face of Jesus.  In many of these cases, the person didn’t ask to see the face of God. The heavenly being came to them.  In the New Testament, people saw the face of God when they looked upon Jesus.

As I have gotten older I do not always want to know about my future except to know that near-term the provisions for my kids, our health and necessities are met.  I went into a gift discovery conference wanting to learn about myself and what I could be.  But wanting to know was not just an isolated desire.

At the risk of this sounding narcissistic, being so absorbed in “about me”, a French monk Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) writings come to my rescue for reflection.  He wrote on the degrees of love.  There is a love of self for self’s sake (selfish love), love of God for self’s sake (dependence on God), love of God for God’s sake (intimacy with God) and love of self for God’s sake (being united with God’s love).  I can’t wait till I attain the fourth love.

If I had access to my future, it would create all sorts of questions of what would I do if I saw my life play out not as I thought would happen?  Would I not get married knowing we would part ways? If I decide not to get married, would I have missed out on the legacy of my children (They are my magnum opus.) and grandchildren that I have now?  What could possibly replace that?  They are my magnum opus.   Those are frustrating types of hypothetical questions that are speculative at best.

When I was nine or ten, I participated in a school talent contest.  I pantomimed a Doris Day recording of “Que Sera, Sera” (Spanish for Whatever will be, will be). The first line of the song that I lipped sync to was “When I was just a little girl, I ask my mother what would I be?” It was the theme song that played out most of my life.   I have always thought women could have it all (love, family, career) just not all at the same time. Some say men have it all, family and career.  I beg to differ, most men are working so hard they miss living out the family life of ups and downs.  Either they are there to put out the fires or show up for the trophy kids events where a camera shots are always readied.  The risk of not pushing yourself to do as much as possible during a given time is in the danger of spending majority of your life not doing what you dreamed, its the gamble that you can find the time and freedom to do it later.  I wonder if living life is supposed to be inchoate, partly living the full experience f existence at any given time? None of us know what the future can bring relationship wise, health or financially although we can try to keep an account on these things and manage those investments for opportunity meet preparedness.

Truth: The evil one (Satan) is a liar, a master of deception: the bluff is his greatest weapon (from the book The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis outlines the liar’s most potent arsenal).  His first lie was telling Eve that man would not die (cf. Gen.  3:4) if they ate the fruit. It isn’t enough that Satan lies and plays games with us in the present. He will pickpocket our past mistakes and the unknown worries of the future to mess and undermined us now. He encourages us to question God’s truths in hopes we may be disappointed by not getting the answer we want.  Satan is the epitome of fake news as opposed to the Good News.

Sadly, Satan’s greatest ambassadors can be pastors who preach a perversion of God’s truth.  We have an omnipresent, omnibenevolent God. Our victory through Jesus is already won but we must be alert to what tools the enemy uses to undermine us.

Irish poet David Whyte compares in his book Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Word to how living fully matured is the most youthful ability of all. It’s accomplished by living courageously in the past, the present and the future all at once.  Our part is in the maturity to recognize our refusal to the discipline to choose between or isolate these three  dynamics that we let influence the shape of our identity:  what has happened, what is happening now and what is about to happen.  Immaturity is to make the wrong choice and only live in one or two of the three. Maturity is not static, you never arrive.  It’s living on the frontier between these three segments of time despite the constant beckoning of immaturity.  These can be powerful shapers but in the end our identity is not in what we do, it is not in our appearance nor in our sexuality.  That is not who we are if  a child of God. Our identity is in him.

Most of my exoduses are done in a step by step towards personal healing or self-discovery (Luke 4:23).    Case in point, I made a dumb accounting error which took a while to discover.  My using the wrong version of software became apparent when I went in to correct my mistake.  I, with the help of tech support, got the right software that met my needs.  In my gladness when discovering my mistake, I giggled at the surprising thought of how grateful I was to be the sole driver in my life.  My own self-incrimination over the incident wouldn’t have been the only ones if I had a passenger, worse yet backseat driver. I felt this unusual contentment, not previously felt in my autonomy. A healing kind of disenchantment was wrapping itself around me where an illusion once was.

Another step towards my healing is when I started to sleep in the center of my bed instead of only on my side.  For years, I shared a full-size bed that was passed down to us in my marriage.  We had it (and the mattress) for so long that the mattress had a center indentation where we eventually ended up cuddling and making love.  Finally, a new bed, a queen sized dark mahogany canopy replaced it.  Our sleep patterns had changed some by then, among other things,  what with me being starting to experience sleep deprivation from being a light sleeper and managing nocturnal aches and pains, his snoring and bouts of sleep apnea; we didn’t share the entire night in that bed together, with one of us leaving so not to disturb the other’s sleep.  Eventually, after our marriage dissolved, I moved to sleeping in the center of the bed, initially with all sorts of pillows surrounding me.  Now I contend with nudging my small dog from the middle of the mattress when he sleeps with me at night reminding him it is not his spot.

There are many variables in life that are out of control, so worrying is futile.  The Dalai Lama says: “There are two days in the year that nothing can be done.  One is called yesterday, and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do, and most of all live.”  And who can add a day to their life through worrying (Lk. 12:25)?

Switching to mindfulness living is a challenge.  Impossible almost.  The following poem/lyrics of “Holy as A Day is Spent,” by Carrie Newcomer, encourages to do “Holy” in small steps by using the everyday reality (cultivating secular sanctity) that is fuel for an ideal world.  She wrote:

“Holy is the dish and drain, the soap and sink, the cup and plate and the warm wool socks, and the cold white tile showerheads and good dry towels.

And frying eggs sound like a psalm, with a bit of salt measured in my palm, it’s all a part of a sacrament, as Holy as a day is spent.

Holy is the busy street and cars that boom with passion’s beat, and the checkout girl, Counting change. And the hands that shook my hands today.

Hymns of geese fly overhead and stretch their wings like their parents did blessed be the dog that runs in her sleep, the catch that wild and elusive thing.

Holy is a familiar room and the quiet moments in the afternoon and folding sheets like folding hands to as only laundry can.

I’m letting go of all I fear, like autumn leaves of earth and air, for Summer came, and Summer went; as Holy as a day is spent.

Holy is the place I stand, to give whatever small good I can, the empty page, the open book redemption everywhere I look.

Unknowingly we slow our pace, In the shade of unexpected grace, with grateful smiles and sad lament, as Holy as a day is spent.

And morning light sings ‘providence,’ As Holy as a day is spent.”

The story of Exodus lives on and repeats itself with the promise “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to stand still.” (Ex. 14:14).

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