In our reading from Exodus today, Pharaoh has had enough of all those plagues, and he’s told the Israelites, “Leave. Just leave now. Right now.” If you’ve ever had to evacuate, whether it was because of natural disaster, transportation mishap, or domestic violence, you know there is a moment–that moment of decision–and it can be gripping.
That moment when we know we have to leave, and leave right now, is often a radical shift from what we were doing. Up until that moment, we were mostly trying to wait it out, or tough it out, or holding off making a decision until we could see how things were going to play out. We might even have gotten fairly good at waiting things out. Perhaps we’ve been able to wait it out because we have those things we cherish as comforts in life–the home where our children grew up, the scrapbook of our most closely-held memories, or our well-worn and perfectly fitting recliner chair. Yet, when that moment we know we must leave comes, it’s clear we are to leave all those things behind, and the pain of this is palpable.
I wonder what the Israelites looked back upon and thought, “I just hate leaving THAT behind. How am I going to get by without THAT?” Even in bondage, and the pain of enslavement, there are regrets–just ask anyone who has fled as the result of domestic violence. So many times, those who flee in those situations didn’t really want to leave their homes, they just wanted the abuser to stop abusing and behave better. Yet there was a point when the evidence mounted to a simple decision–stay with their stuff and risk death, or leave with little to nothing and up the chances of remaining alive. The time for thinking things over is through, and the window of time to leave is closing. These are no-going-back moments in many of our lives, and somehow, we muster up the courage to do them.
The one thing the Israelites had going for them in our story was that they had been carefully schooled by God, through Moses, that this moment was coming. I am reminded that in our own lives, we are also schooled in the art of evacuation, even if we don’t want to believe it. There are always people in our lives who are our guiding stars, our lighthouse on the rocks, or our personal disaster preparedness manual, if we choose to pay attention to them. In a time of evacuation, God may seem quite absent, or perhaps we don’t even have time to consider God’s presence or absence. Sometimes it’s only at a later point on the journey we see where God was, or even much later, when we are safely ensconced in that next place we are to be. Sometimes the best we can do is a signpost, or a mile marker…or that person who is the window of God’s love that is called to shepherd us. Hard as it is, there are times in our lives where the call is, “Leave. Just leave. Leave now.”
When is a time you were called to evacuate? What did you regret leaving behind the most? Who turned out to be called to be your guiding star?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, is a grateful member of Trinity Episcopal Church and a postulant to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. You can also share her journey on her blog, Chapologist.
Image: CC BY-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons Refugees