Exodus for the Rest of Us...
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” James Baldwin
It wasn’t until I was in my mid thirties that the weight of the truth hit me, and when it did, it hit hard. Hard like an unexpected wave that suddenly crashes in, mercilessly tumbles you and pins you to the ocean floor, crushing the breath out of you and robbing you of all sense of direction.
I was sitting in the locker room after a swim, talking with a friend who was reeling from an impending divorce. A lifetime of hiding and suppressing had led to the sham of a marriage and the shattering of a family. It wasn’t all his fault by far, but he was owning his part.
My friend and I belonged by chance to the same church and enjoyed early-morning swims for exercise, but the most significant commonality in our relationship was we were both adopted. He asked how I dealt with the issues that came from my adoption. I innocently and naively responded that I had no such problems.
He paused, looked me straight in the eye and replied, “Everyone who is adopted has issues.”
That’s when the wave hit. In one of those rare flashes of insight that alters the entire landscape – redraws the whole freaking map – I instantly saw how I lived, subconsciously yet concretely, in response to this reality. I suddenly saw how much power it had in my life, forming and fomenting fears and coping mechanisms, character traits and choices. I saw the scripts I had written for myself to try and make emotional sense of it. How it directed and fueled so much of my behavior – some that got rewarded, some that opened the sluice gates of shame.
Because all this happened in a blinding instant, I couldn’t possibly take it in all at once. In fact, here I am some twenty-plus years later, still trying to untangle it all and put things in proper order.
Of course, my experience of adoption isn’t the only thing that shaped my life. And to be clear, my experience was one of the better ones as far as adoptions go. But it’s there, along with all the rest. And as Baldwn so wisely instructs us, true change starts with facing reality: who we are, where we are, and why.
All this plays out on a communal scale as well as an individual, personal one. Communities have histories and personalities like people do. They’re just as complex and often just as deeply hidden, from others and from the community itself.
Exodus is a story of a particular people struggling to face the reality of who they are, where they are, and why. It is deeply compelling on its own, offering us a template for asking our questions and understanding our own histories and identities. While we may have bursts of insight along the way, it takes time to untangle the story, to process the impact of the experiences and to walk the pilgrim path of healing and wholeness.
For the rest of our year, until Advent, we’re going to walk with Israel on this journey. We’re going to let their story speak to our own, as individuals and as a community, and we’re going to let ours speak to theirs. This won’t necessarily be an easy journey, but it’s an essential one. Along the way, we’ll be consistently asking two questions: What have they/we been delivered from? And what will they/we be delivered to?
Like all pilgrimages, it’s one we must choose to make. And we can’t make alone. So I invite you to journey with us. Let’s see what we can find.