Personal Exodus

In his book Telling Secrets, Frederick Buechner talks about his father’s suicide and how under no circumstances was it to be talked about.  Mentioning that his father even existed was verboten not only with “outsiders”, but also within the family.  When he finally did mention it in a book that he wrote, his mother read him the riot act and refused to speak with him for telling the family secrets.  Many families have painful stories, but as Buechner opines, I also think it is healthy to talk about them, or at the very least, acknowledge that they exist.

Each of us is the culmination of all of our stories.  All of the people who have had an impact on our lives contribute in some way to who we are as their stories intersect with ours.  This narrative of existence forms us and whether we admit it or not, shapes the way we see the world.  These stories may be negative or positive, but if we acknowledge them and realize the role the play in our lives, then we can harness the power in them for our own good.

These stories do not just happen at the individual level, but also at the community or cultural level.  One great example is the Exodus story.  Scholars argue over whether or not the Exodus even as recorded in the Bible actually happened or if it did, when it happened.  To me, the facticity of the event does not have any bearing on whether or not it is real.  Even if we are to call the Exodus a myth, I believe it is as a wise person once said – a myth is not something that is untrue, it is something that is so true that it happens every day.  Let’s explore the Exodus story and see.

Do you remember when the Israelites were taken into slavery into Egypt?  If you said “yes”, then you’re thinking of perhaps the Babylonians or the Assyrians because it never happened.  The Israelites under Joseph’s direction went willingly to Egypt because of a famine in the land in which they were living.  After Joseph died, the Israelites were taken as slaves and they ended up being in Egypt for 430 years.  Eventually, Moses was called by God to free the Israelites from their bonds of slavery and lead them in to the promised land.  Negotiation with the pharaoh didn’t go so well and so, after the plagues, the Israelites high-tailed it across the Red Sea (or the Sea of Reeds) and in to the desert.  Then, the went happily ever after in to the promised land, right?  Nope.  They wandered in the desert for 40 years and Moses never did see the promised land.  The Israelites grumbled and moaned about their food and their lodging and argued with God at every chance they got.  They even complained that they would rather be back in Egypt where they could eat.  Finally, because Moses had disobeyed God (remember the whole staff and water from the rock thing?), Joshua was chosen as Moses’ successor.  Things didn’t get much better after that for another 400 years or so, but we’ll leave that for another day.

So, what’s this got to do with us?  Well, isn’t this the story of our lives?  Regardless of whether or not this story actually happened, it still happens and is happening right now.  Have we ever willingly “left home”, so to speak because we thought the grass was greener on the other side and then become enslaved when we realized it wasn’t?  Have we ever, after a difficult battle, tried to go home but just spun our wheels in the same situation or habits?   I’m pretty sure that the answer is “yes” in one way or another.  Some of us are still in the desert.

So, how do we find our ways back home?  For some of us it is as easy as realizing that we are home and embracing the stories in our lives instead of running from them – even the ugly ones.  For others, it begins with trusting that the stories are good and at the very least truly are a part of who we are.  Regardless of where we are at – still in Egypt, wandering in the desert, or back home – there is much to be gained from acknowledging our stories and accepting them as a part of our lives.  Just a thought . . .

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