“Out of Egypt I have come, the Devil barking at my heels
Snapping at my wheels, howling at the sun,
Out of Egypt I have come”
Buck Storm, from the album Breath of God
I am remembering my Grandmother. One time when I was about ten years old, she looked in the mirror and exclaimed, “Oh, I am just an ugly old woman! I used to be beautiful”.
We didn’t believe her. It never occurred to me that my Grandma might have ever looked any other way. She looked just fine for my intents and purposes. It never occurred to me that she had any other identity than being my grandma.
Then she showed me a picture, the kind of glam shots that you would take as a moment preserved from Victorian times. She was indeed beautiful, long luxurious hair, no wrinkles. She was for a moment, a real person. It was a revelation to me.
I have had the same moments of intimation from my own girls. I am not sure exactly how I am supposed to react when they say something like “Dad, who did you USED to be?” I am unsure whether I should feel diminished or relieved.
It’s that nagging past, you know, the one that haunts everyone. Being young and doing foolish things. Trying out the world and tasting of the wares. Sometimes walking through the valley of the shadow of death, at times drinking from some fairly dark wells, and getting some things wrong. I would think of such memories and chalk them up to learning and experience. I am unsure how my kids would view such a revelation, that I indeed have been a real person, at times in my life.
Well, like Buck Storm’s song lyrics, at one point or another, we have all come out of Egypt. His lyric is not news to anyone who has ever read the Bible. It is a reference to the verse in Deuteronomy 24:18. “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there.” It is a reminder that we may have been in some dark places, and we should be grateful to have put some distance between that person, and the one we are now. John Newton was so inspired by this verse that he wrote one of the world’s most beloved songs, Amazing Grace. “I once was lost and now am found”. He could relate. Fact is, after living a derelict life, he did indeed end up on the shores of North Africa as a slave. It was not unusual to the times. The Muslim North Africans invented slavery, and their favourite victims were white sailors who had strayed far from home. They were considered to be infidels, and fair game. They could be temporarily useful, and they could garner large ransoms from those at home who wanted to redeem them from their sorry plight. We have seen glimpses of what this looks like even in modern times with the rise and fall of ISIS in Syria. Out of Egypt I have come, indeed.
John Newton did not bury his past. In fact, he wanted it to be ever before his eyes, the idea that he made some bad mistakes, and that he owed a debt to God. He was not ashamed to be ashamed. There are few who would be comfortable with that degree of disclosure. “Who did you used to be?” might be a haunting question.
It also might be a celebration, albeit an internal one, that we may have also been party to some amazing grace. Lost and found. Bound and yet now free.
It begs the question, whether it is honest to pretend that you have never gotten into any kind of trouble, even for the sake of propriety. Even for the sake of your kids. When you have them, you send them off here and there, in search of the world and in search of themselves. I know. I have one in Bali now. I have been forewarned how much trouble one can get into in Bali, and I try not to think about it. I understand that they may make some mistakes, even have some regrets. I hope they do not ever get into the kind of trouble that sticks.
Of course, it is just a matter of basic honesty to admit that you might at times have been rash and foolish in your conduct, that you have learned some lessons. It makes you also understand that faith takes the long view, because it also allows for such things, to understand where you are now as opposed to where you have been.
It makes you understand that discretion and judgement are a necessary tool in life to assess what is good, and what is not. Sometimes you have to drink out of those dark wells to get this in full. Conviction is best measured by some kind of reality check. Faith is a journey, indeed. To understand the grace of God, may require that at times you have also had the Devil snapping at your heels, howling at the sun.
Out of Egypt I have come. Redeemed by some amazing grace, indeed. Full disclosure? God only knows.