"Get out. Leave. Walk away, and don't stop until I tell you to stop." This is how I imagine God's speech to Abraham. back when Abraham was still working in his father's idol shop in the land of Ur. Regardless of the actual Hebrew - or Aramaic - or whatever Urish language they spoke when Ur was the Hot Address of the Fertile Crescent.
Get out, says God, and miracle of miracles-- Abraham does. He packs up lock, stock and ass, and heads west, never looking back. Apparently, he got the dangers of looking back that some of his in laws never did.
I cannot imagine the sheer amount of faith that act took. Talk about praying with your feet! On the strength of a voice alone, not even a vision (nor hallucination), Abe believed that he would be carried through, be made great. He was picked, chosen, The Man. He never doubted. He argued. He bargained. He obeyed (but please, don't get me started on that! [and feel free to read my poem, Like Dust and Heat, for my cut on that little escapade]). But he didn't doubt. And he left.
Flash forward a millennium or two, to the Children of Israel. Refugees turned invited guest turned slave over the course of four hundred years. And now, after having their cries of anguish ignored by their God for the whole time, some felon-on-the-run, some Jew-turned Egyptian prince-turned-Jew, who had hidden out with the Midianites, marrying a local girl and spening his days herding flocks and talking to bushes-- this guy came and started stirring things up and making impossible demands. "Let my people go!" he said to Pharaoh. And Pharaoh seemed to listen-- but Pharaoh had his doubts. Pharaoh needed a little proof, a small demonstration of might and power. Pharaoh needed to be shown this might and power again and again times ten.
And finally, after all the blood and frogs and vermin and bad stuff, miracle of miracles-- Pharaoh said yes. And Moshe said "Get out. Leave. Walk away. Follow me, God'll keep you safe." Their faith was a little more tenuous than Abe's had been, a little more wishy-washy. It was all well and good when they could see the pillar of fire and the cloud of smoke. Absent that, there were a few (how to put this delicately?) blindspots. None of them escaped unscathed, not even Moshe. They were a fiery, tempestuous, argumentative and whiny bunch of people. Once they were slaves, now they were.. hungry and tired and scared. Freed was low on the list of adjectives that they cared about.
But for all of that, they did it: they went. They left the only place they knew as home, the only life they knew how to live, and they did it on the strength of a voice, a vision and a promise. Perhaps not as purposefully as Abraham and his entourage, perhaps a little more frantic than Abe's earlier departure, perhaps they looked back a time or two-- but the left.
I think about these scenes-- of wonder and chaos and reverence. I think about the faith it took to move. To do the unimaginable: leave. Wow (I know-- I'm a writer, I should have more words, better words than this, but, I mean-- really: wow!).
I talk about having faith. I live on my faith. I get a spiritual high from my faith. Blah blah blah. It's all well and good, until I have to depend on my faith, and do the unimaginable-- leave. Or, more precisely, leave things behind. I carry everything with me as I traverse my own wilderness-- my fear, my doubt, my brokenness. I mean to leave it behind. I really, really do. I think I leave behind me, at whatever stopping off place, whatever oasis I find refuge. Imagine my surprise to find that it's all still there, tucked away in some corner of my basket, with all my other stuff. No matter how many times I am shown that I will be carried through, that I will be okay (not that bad things won't ever happen, but that my faith will be strong enough to allow me to put one foot in front of the other, so that I can face whatever is in front of me). No matter, like Pharaoh, I have my doubts. I need to be shown. Again.
I like to think that, even if I haven't quite managed to leave my broken stuff behind, to let it go for good, then at least it's not as big, not as monumentally huge and all-consuming as when I first picked whatever-it-is up, drew it to me and made it grow and blossom (like deadly nightshade). I think, sometimes, that is true. All of those bits of brokenness are smaller, less powerful. They no longer paralyze me, they merely make me stumble.
And this year, as I stand once again at the border of the desert, suddenly freed and commanded to leave-- perhaps I will finally have the faith of Abraham and Moshe and the whiny, courageous and human folk of the Exodus. Perhaps I will finally have the faith to leave.
c Stacey Zisook Robinson
10 April 2014