It really wasn't so bad, we say. We had jobs and houses and food. Sure, we built bricks without straw and were beaten regularly, and there was that time when Pharaoh commanded all the male children to be killed, but it really wasn't so bad.
Egypt really wasn't so bad, we say. Not in comparison to this rocky wasteland where we don't know our next step - and must depend completely on God to rain manna from heaven to feed us or bring water from a rock to quench our thirst.
Thoughts of Egypt are death. We look back, and miss today. If we look ahead, it is in fear. Despite day after day after day of God's faithful provision, we question. What if He stops? What if He forgets us? What if it is not enough?
The fact is - in Egypt, we wore chains. Heavy, unbearable, unbreakable chains. We have forgotten our hopelessness and cries of despair. We forget so easily that we asked God to deliver us from evil. We forget that He answered our prayer.
Just over a year ago, I returned to Egypt. It was the only thing that made sense to me at the time. I prayed and sought godly counsel, and God opened the door.
I was not fully aware that it was a return to Egypt. It felt more like coming home.
Building bricks without straw felt fine in the beginning because it was so good to be home. The stern taskmaster was glad to have me back, but the honeymoon ended quickly. I rapidly tired from hauling heavy expectations (some his, some mine). I was frustrated by last-minute increases to quota (didn't he see that we had no straw, and that it took time to get the straw AND build the bricks? It takes a certain amount of straw to build a good and lasting brick.)
After a year, the taskmaster told me I wasn't doing a good job. He gave me a plan to improve my performance, adding tasks and increasing my responsibilities. He said it would help me focus. If I didn't get it all done, I would be killed.
His perspective was the only one I saw, the only one that mattered. Others tried to tell me that it wasn't true. Pleasing the taskmaster, no matter how impossible, seemed like the only way to move on.
God had a different plan. My mind was so scarred that I couldn't see how to start again. All I had was a mental picture, like a Coast Guard helicopter rescue, of myself harnessed to a long cable and lifted from a raging Lake Michigan. I accepted an offer to leave Egypt.
I find myself in the in-between, a wilderness of sorts. Will I stay there? Will I move into the land of Canaan? Will I, like Hagar, have my eyes opened to see the well next to me? Will I trust Him as The-God-Who-Sees-Me?
All I know is that God spoke to my heart and said, "Start from where you are." He is the God of Beginning-Again. He is the God of Unlimited Do-Overs.
And that is joy.