May 9, 2007

Moving On

One of the worst aspects of moving is saying goodbye to friends. Even worse is when they say goodbye before you have actually departed.

After twenty-eight moves, the one thing most of them have in common is this strange phenomena. Perhaps folks don’t handle goodbyes very well, or just don’t know what to do with friends who have announced they are leaving but haven’t gone yet. Regardless of their reasons, some of the people whom we’ve left behind behaved as if we had already left before we did. No more invitations, no calls, a strain in face-to-face conversations.

One time we moved to one city and found out we would soon be transferred again. We let it be known, but wished we hadn’t. At a Bible study, the hostess introduced us to another couple and said, “Don’t get to know these people too well; they will be leaving soon anyway.”

Last month a guest pastor preached a great sermon on my devotional reading today. It is from Hebrews 11:27 and says, “By faith he (Moses) forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.”

The message had two points: leaving the old life of sin and bondage, and the need for patient endurance in the new life in Christ.

Moses left Egypt twice. He fled after killing an Egyptian who was abusing an Israelite, then was sent back by God to free His people with God’s power, not his own, and left again in the great exodus. Which time of leaving is the passage in Hebrews talking about?

The pastor pointed out that “forsaking Egypt” does not require a move. In his heart Moses had already “left” Egypt before he left the first time. He decided the people of God were more important than the fact he was in a position to become the next Pharaoh. In other words, I can leave something, no longer ‘be there’ for it, even if I don’t go anywhere.

I know this experience. People have “forsaken” me without walking out, and I can leave something behind without leaving it as well. It is a matter of the heart, of what I consider the most important.

For Christians, most sin is willingly left behind. It has become bondage and the reason we came to Christ in the first place. But there are some things from the old life that are like rumpled and comfortable shoes or jeans. They are harder to part with and sometimes seem like they enhance our lives. We don’t want to leave them behind, even when Christ Himself tells us that is what we must do.

Another reason my “Egypts” are difficult to forsake is that I’ve already left some of them and discovered that by doing that, new challenges rise up, challenges that require patience and endurance. Like a move, the new place has its good points, but along with those are inevitable expenses and sometimes painful adjustments.

My new life in Christ is great, but it is costly. Jesus asks for a 24-hour readiness; I’m to be available all the time, ready to say yes when He asks me to do something. This can mean interruptions, drained funds, exhausting physical effort, mental and emotional stress, or anything else the job requires. This new life has challenges that can be uncomfortable, inconvenient, and give me a huge sense of being needy myself and unable to do it alone. While feeling needy is a good thing (and makes me rely on Christ), it is not always comfortable. I need to endure under God, trusting that His choices for me are the very best, and that He is not out to ruin me.

This new life is a narrow life too. I’m not happy when I stray off the walk that Christ has put me on. He wants me to guard my heart, my mind, my mouth, everything I do. This requires patience with myself. I am such a slow learner, and when I fail, I need to remember that God is not out to smack me around but patiently endures as I make mistakes, forgiving me and helping me back on the path.

No doubt about it, that path always leads away from Egypt. I must forsake all that holds me in bondage and keeps me from trusting God. This means turning totally, no long, lingering looks backward, but keeping my eyes on Jesus and pressing on toward the prize to which He has called me.

Packing up and moving has its challenges, however staying here and ‘moving’ is far more difficult. Apart from the grace of God, I’m sure it is impossible.

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