Scripture Passage: Exodus 5:1
Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.
We know the story. The people had been taken away, held in slavery. And now, God is insisting, “Let my people go.” Now it probably wasn’t slavery as we think about it. There were no shackles or locked cells. They were able to pretty much roam around as they pleased. They were even able to earn a living and have a home. Their slavery may have more resembled that of an indentured servant. They could not leave because they were economically and even culturally bound. And after a couple of generations, they had sort of grown accustomed to it. The culture that enslaved them had become their own.
So God screams, “Let my people go.” Maybe God’s most prevalent concern was that after generations of this, the people had forgotten who they were. They had become part of the culture in which they lived and had somehow morphed into being someone who they were not. In God’s vision, the wilderness, the place where darkness loomed and consumed, was better than the place of bound safety that enslaved the people. God was calling for their release, not just from economic chains but from the chains of being content to be who they are not.
We can identify. Sometimes we find ourselves bound by our lifestyle, by what our life is expected to be. We are bound by the expectations of others. We are bound by plans that did not materialize but that we cannot (or will not) change. We are bound by who we think we should be or who we think we should become. And just as God did so long ago, the Divine screams into the night, “Let my people go.” And just like that, we are driven into the wilderness. It is a place of unfamiliarity, a place of discomfort. It is a place that scares us. It is a place that we cannot control, a place for which we cannot plan. But it is also a place of freedom.
Maybe the point of this story was not so much about freeing God’s people from her enslavers but about freeing God’s people to become God’s people. How many times have you looked back into the dark times of your life and realized that, as hard as it was, it was exactly what made you who you are? Sometimes the dark times are the ones that push us into the light, even if the way is through a wilderness.
The wilderness is calling us. The wilderness is the place where we are not bound, where we can finally be free to be who God calls us to be. The wilderness is the place where we finally set down the things that we are holding that are not ours, that do not make us who God calls us to be. The wilderness is the place where we become who we are meant to be. This season is our time to go into the wilderness.
What would happen if security were not the point of our existence? That we find freedom, aliveness, and power not from what contains, locates, or protects us but from what dissolves, reveals, and expands us. (Eve Ensler)
Grace and Peace,