Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though you footprints were not seen.” (Psalm 77:19)
A very wise man once said that there are actually two exodus stories in the book of Exodus. The first is God getting Israel out of slavery and the second is God getting slavery out of Israel. The first happened one day, as God led his people out of Egypt and through the Red Sea. The second took forty years of wandering in the wilderness. It seems that the comfortable and familiar, no matter how hard and dysfunctional, don’t loosen their grip on us easily. The problem is that following Jesus almost never involves what is easy, comfortable, or familiar.
I’m coming to realize more and more that God’s way always leads through the sea—and then through the wilderness—not around it. It is only by going through the sea, and then the wilderness, that God gets slavery out of us. It is a long and arduous journey. The life of slavery runs deep. Its roots have dug way down into us and it will take some time and effort to pull them out.
“Freedom cannot abide in a heart dominated by desire, in a slave’s heart,” wrote John of the Cross. “It abides in a liberated heart, in a child’s heart.” Going through, not around, is how God brings that liberation about. “There is no way out, only through,” wrote Gerald May. And he was so right. There is something about going through, instead of around, that is transforming.
But the bottom line is that until we love our liberation more than we love our captivity, we will always be slaves.