Let My People Go


They turned on Moses, asking, “Were there no graves in Egypt that you must lead us out to die in the desert? What have you done to us? Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Didn’t we tell you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone. Let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better to work for the Egyptians than to die here in the desert!” ~ Exodus 14:11-12

When a bird strikes a window and is fortunate enough to do so in a place where a concerned human is present, that is just the beginning of a new journey. When a bird is dazed from the impact, it often is unable to put up much of a struggle when being captured, but typically uses whatever energy it has to show its displeasure. From there it will have its needs met, albeit in captivity. Whether it has the ability to perceive the fact that it is getting a second chance is questionable, but if it retains any memory of the trauma that led up to the stay in rehab then it certainly would appreciate the relative comfort of that captivity. But birds are meant to fly free. And the fact that there were volunteers prepared to help it is because it was migration time, when the risk is increased for lots of individual birds. So, rehab is just a layover on the journey. When healthy, the birds are released, but they don’t stay put, they continue the work of flying to the destination, often hundreds, even thousands of miles away. One can easily imagine them longing for the days of comfort in the rehab facility where all their needs were provided, except, of course, the need to be in the place where they were driven by instinct to be.

When the Hebrew people were released from captivity in Egypt and found themselves between a rock and a hard place (well, a sea and an attacking army) they can be excused for complaining. But even on the other side of the sea, when facing the hard work of crossing the wilderness, they struggled with a different, self-imposed captivity. As soon as the literal singing and dancing ended, the first thing the people did was kvetch. Their complaint to Moses was that he had brought them out into the desert to starve to death. At least in Egypt they had meals. How quickly we forget the reason for our journey! Every so often, a bird needs to be coaxed out of the container that transports them to the release site, but every bird, once released quickly flies away, even if just a short distance at first. Here, the people didn’t even want to hide, they wanted to return to their previously undesirable existence.

We marvel at the flight of birds, seeing it as an inspiring symbol of freedom. Yet, flight is demanding and migration, in particular, is difficult and dangerous work. Wouldn’t it be great to see our life’s journeys from a God’s-eye view? From that perspective we could rejoice at the magic of flight and understand the value of striving to reach the destination. But ours is the bird’s-eye view. We feel compelled to move, but don’t necessarily know the destination. We call it the Promised Land and imagine milk and honey flowing there, but that’s a story we tell ourselves to maintain motivation in the middle of nowhere. The truth is that the promise that matters most is that God is present in the journey. We are not only delivered, we are protected. Now all we have to do is listen and follow.

Prayer: God who camps with us, thank you for hearing our complaining and not giving us what we ask for. Amen.

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