What Needs to Die?
The message of Moses’ long journey through the wilderness is both less daunting and more applicable to your situation: the outlook, attitudes, values, self-images, and ways of thinking that were functional in the past have to “die” before people can be ready for life in the present.
~Managing Transitions, William and Susan Bridges
I’ve heard it said before that the reason the Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness was not to get them out of Egypt. It was to get Egypt out of them. Significant generational trauma needed to be overcome. That wasn’t going to happen in a short amount of time. In fact, it was going to take generations.
As we read through the stories of the post-exodus Israelites, we see many times the desire to return to Egypt. At one point, they are complaining about how they are going to starve in the wilderness, and at least in Egypt, they lament, they had pots of meat and ate all they wanted.
Now, as a carnivore myself, I appreciate the imagery of pots of meat from which to eat copious amounts of food. HOWEVER… I think I would rather NOT be a slave in a foreign land. Of course, the Israelites had been in Egypt for 400 years, so it wasn’t exactly a foreign land to them, but that’s another story. The point is they were longing for a return to slavery because it was familiar, because the life they faced now was different and difficult.
The forty years of wilderness wandering was enough time for a new generation to rise out of the people of Israel. People who heard the stories, but didn’t experience the slavery —at least, not to the extent their parents did.
At lot of times in our own lives, we hang on to the things of the past simply because that’s what we know. There is a bit of fear when it comes to embracing some new way of doing things. We do what we’ve always done because it is familiar, it is comfortable, it’s easier than learning something new. Because we still have too much of Egypt within us.
So, what do we need to do? We could wander the wilderness for forty years, but that seems excessive when there are other options out there for us. Let me make a couple of suggestions.
Suggestion #1: Don’t be afraid to try something new.
How many times have you heard somebody say: “I’m just too old to figure out this new technology”? You are only as old as you think you are when it comes to new things in this life. Be honest with yourself: you aren’t too old, you’re either too scared or too lazy.
Suggestion #2: Move forward… because that’s the only direction times goes anyway.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but we don’t get to redo something we’ve already done — or decided not to do because we were scared in the moment. Certainly, there are times in life when we get second chances to do something, but we aren’t redoing it, we’re just facing it once again. Until time travel gets invented, and we can go back and change things, we are stuck in the reality we have now. So, don’t live in the past. Don’t allow your regrets to control you. Don’t let your past determine your future. Yes, absolutely, our past brings us to where we are, but that doesn’t necessarily dictate where we are going. Look back from time to time, but move forward.
Suggestion #3: Learn every day.
The best way to move forward: learn something new. Pick up a hobby. Pick up a book. Get interested in something, anything, and learn about it. You don’t dwell on the past when you are actively working on your future.
Look, I get it, the past is easy to go to. We have our memories. We idealize it, sometimes, so maybe it isn’t quite what we remember, but that’s okay. Keep the pleasant memories. Allow the challenges that shaped you to continue to teach you. But… we’ve already lived that moment. Revisit it, sure, but don’t dwell in it. There are too many people counting on you now. Your future shouldn’t be consumed with what was, instead fill it with what could be.