LENT I Want to Go Back to Egypt

1 Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:1–4 ESV)

I want to go back to Egypt.

I want to go back to my life as a reporter 15 years ago. I want to go back to the time before September 11, 2001, before Jesus spoke to me underneath the burning towers of the World Trade Center in New York. I want to leave this wilderness, I don’t want to inherit Canaan — which is already full of people bigger and stronger than me — and I want to go back to making bricks for Pharaoh, filling my stomach occasionally with good things, and resting sometimes on cool evenings in the Egyptian dusk, talking with friends and getting a little joy out of life.

I want to go back to Egypt.

I wish I could. I wish I could leave all of this behind. Put the clock back. Live and work and die in the land of comfortable servitude.

But I cannot. There is no unhearing Jesus. There is no way to take back that groan I uttered from the depth of my soul in the few years before 9/11. No way to uncry for help. No way to undo God’s listening, God’s remembering, God’s knowing. There is no way to undo the plagues, undrown Pharaoh and his army, ungraduate seminary, become an uncandidate for ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (oh, but wouldn’t that make a few people happy, to have never heard my name!), even unencounter the ELCA in the first place so no one there would be troubled with my presence and vexed by my story.

I cannot go backwards to Egypt. There is no backwards to go. There is only forward. My hands can make nothing of value right now, neither bricks nor idols. They are only good to gather the gifts of God scattered daily for my sustenance. To pack up and move from place to place as the pillars of cloud and fire demand it.

Canaan lies in front of me, full of people — frightening people who tower over me. I am scared. They are many, and I am few.

I want to go back to Egypt.

I want to go home. There is no home behind me, though. There is nothing behind me but a godless sorrow, a life without meaning, a place I had to flee just two steps ahead of death and destruction.

There is a home that beckons, but it lies in front of me.

And there is God, leading me on. Commanding me to take it.

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2 thoughts on “LENT I Want to Go Back to Egypt

  1. Hi Charles.

    I’m glad you’ve got the guts to “hang in there”. For myself, I don’t even know where id locate my “Egypt”. Every church id been a part of I was on the fringes because I couldn’tbe a “yes man”. Ended up as a white guy in an Asian church for a while. That was pretty good but had to move suburbs.

    Jobwise, well I had to flee Pharoah, twice.

    I guess you now know how John the Forunner felt in jail., or St John of the Cross. Where iste church when you need them ? Probably asleep like His disciples at Gethsemane
    I hope some denomination comes through. You may need to make it a bit more formal & send letters rather than email. As I mentioned before, I got zero response from email when I was trying to help my missio friend. I still can’t believe that! At least a business would respond or point your query to another person..

    What will God need to do to break down these “firewalls” of indifference ?

    Like

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