On Passover the other day, an idea struck me. When Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, they didn’t like the privations of the wilderness and started grumbling. They missed the comforts of food and peace they enjoyed in Egypt, even though they were slaves to the Egyptians. They actually tried to mutiny against Moses and go back into captivity in Egypt.
We are currently in the wilderness of Covid-19 lockdown. We don’t have our comforts we love: freedom to go where we want when we want, plentiful restaurants cooking our favorite foods on demand, entertainments to fill our leisure hours, and retail meccas where we can dispose of our surplus wealth. Many of us only see the discomfort and yearn for things to go back to what they were. We want Egypt back. We don’t see the slavery our comforts involved.
In our pre-virus world, we were slaves to consumer culture. Spending money and consuming were our main occupations, and in order to have the money to spend, we were slaves to our jobs, climbing the corporate ladder, and commuting to work for three to four hours a day. We were slaves to exhaustion and stress, never taking time to eat dinner together as a family or to spend time strolling the neighborhood with the kids. We were so harried that we couldn’t spare a civil word for a person we passed on the street.
God’s plan to liberate the Israelites from slavery was a long, arduous process. It wasn’t easy, and the people didn’t like it. We are like them in many ways. We are not even 40 days into our lockdown here in California, let alone 40 years wandering in the desert, and already we are grumbling and planning to rebel, taking off our masks and threatening to lick the hand-rails around town!
Like the Israelites, we doubt that God is on our side, even though we can see numerous silver linings in our current crisis. The Jews had seen with their own eyes God drown the Egyptians in the Red Sea, yet they still doubted. And grumbled. Like them, we need to practice patience and trust that the outcome will be good. We are in a wilderness of doubt, but we are being liberated from an old paradigm. Let’s not wish for a return to the way it was. We are on the way to a new Promised Land.