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Saying “No” to Normal

One of the most amazing stories in the Bible is Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Even Hollywood couldn’t resist making a film about it (The Prince of Egypt). An all-star cast of actors and chart-topping singers joined together to create the epic production telling the biblical account. The film grossed over $218 million and became the most successful non-Disney animated feature at the time.

After Israel’s 400 years of being strangers and slaves in Egypt, the day came when God’s centuries’ old promise to Abraham was fulfilled. Freedom came! With staff in hand, Moses led his people to the shores of the Red Sea and then, miraculously, the ocean waters stood straight up on both sides of a sea bed that had been blown completely dry by the breath of God.

Miriam led a tambourine praise as the newly-freed generations danced on their way to the land of milk and honey. And then…they heard something calling to them across the wilderness.

Who could be calling to them? Hadn’t they seen Pharaoh’s armies drowned in the Sea? And who would be summoning a crowd of ex-slaves, anyway?

Normalcy.

When the excitement died down and the Children of Israel faced a new future and all its uncertainty, the voice of normalcy came screaming, pursuing them as they turned their backs on Egypt.

Doesn’t the same thing happen to us? When we begin to make determined progress toward the promises of God, the soothing voice of what we’re accustomed to begins to talk to us more urgently.

Even bad situations can become places of comfort, as the Children of Israel prove to us. Although they had been the property of Pharaoh and were forced to provide physical labor for his massive building projects, they found something to enjoy in their bondage.

Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted (Numbers 11:4,5).

They were on their way to becoming property owners and title deed holders, but the normalcy of their long stay in Egypt clouded their view and made the Israelites conveniently forget the hardships there. They only remembered the variety of food they ate for free and in abundance.

It’s easy to criticize them and ask, “What in the world was their problem?” But the truth is they were like we are today. Simply put, they were having withdrawal symptoms from the life they had known.

During this pandemic so much has changed. We are limited in our movement and inconveniences are imposed upon us–masks, temperature checks, shortened grocery store hours, cancelled vacations. We are longing for things to get back to normal.

But if the alteration of life as we’ve known it has caused us to face sins and character flaws, haven’t we benefited from it? If the voice of God is clearer because we are bored enough to hear Him, isn’t it wonderful? If our personal relationship with the Lord has deepened because we can no longer attend church services that had become obligatory to us, aren’t we better off?

And yet we crave the old ways.

Just like with the Israelites, our appetites are trying to bully us back into bondage. And likewise, God encourages us:

“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:18,19).

It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to forget the old things, even if they weren’t good. The comfort of ‘normal’ loses its attraction as we set our hearts to follow God fully into what He has prepared for us now and in the future. When we put our trust in Him we will never be disappointed or ashamed.

What pre-Covid-19 normal things are you wishing for? Silence that deceptive voice with God’s promises to you and celebrate the new freedoms that you are headed to.

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