Eleven Months, Part 4: Clinging to Egypt
“You’ve worked harder [at feeling the presence of Grace] than pretty much anyone I know…” She said.
Yeah, and sometimes I completely miss it. And, honestly, it’s much easier for me to miss it than it is to feel it. But Grace is there for the taking. That’s how it is—it’s just there. It’s everywhere. And when you open yourself up to it, you end up sharing it.
That’s just how it works.
And yet, believing this as firmly as I do, I still miss it. I still decide, at times, to stay in a place where I will never notice it. Even if it’s a place makes that me miserable. A place where I find myself thinking things like “Don’t love me like that, love me like this.”
It’s a place where my expectations are not based on reality because I’m not paying any attention to reality. It’s my own private Egypt. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Everyone I know who works on this stuff feels that way at times: “Don’t love me like that love me like this.”
This week the Torah portion is Korach (Numbers 16:1 – 18:32) Korach is the second of two portions that are pretty hard to take.
Last week in Sh’lakh L’kha (Numbers 13:1 – 15:41), we read about how the majority of the spies that Moses sent into the new land, the land where the Israelites would truly no longer be slaves, came back and said. “Forget it—there’s no way we can defeat the people who live there. They’re just to strong. Too frightening. We saw giants.” For this lack of faith, the entire generation that left Egypt is forbidden to enter the new land. Then, as if to top it off, a guy is stoned to death for gathering firewood on Shabbat.
This week, Korach and 250 others, all of them important people, speak out against Moses and Aaron saying “Why are you so special, everyone here is holy—God is with everyone.” So, Korach seemed to get that Grace is everywhere. But later, he missed the point. Moses calls some of Korach’s people over to discuss things, asking “What has Aaron ever done to you?” but they respond “Isn’t it bad enough that you took us out of ‘a land flowing with milk and honey?’ Are you going to lord it over us, too? And even if you’d have brought us to a really great place, you’ve still pulled the wool over our eyes (because you’ve got all the power and you don’t appreciate us)?”
In effect, “Don’t love us like that, love us like this.”
Egypt as a land of milk and honey? Seriously, those guys are forgetting what slavery was like. But we can get used to anything I guess, and it’s hard to let go.
In the end, Korach is buried alive. The Earth opens up and swallows him and everyone who follows him. A pretty strong metaphor for absolute isolation.
Letting go of old habits is pretty hard. It’s pretty easy to think back fondly on Egypt. But it always ends up making us feel isolated, cut off.
“Don’t love me like that, love me like this, Mom.” Egypt.
“Don’t love me like that, love me like this, Ex-Wife.” Egypt.
“Don’t love me like that, love me like this, because I’m feeling alone, and I deserve it, and because I want it.” Egypt.
Lately, I’ve been clinging to Egypt. Feeling the same things I felt as a kid. The same isolation. The same expectations that have no real basis in reality. Feeling like this makes me want to be alone—to rebel against everything I know will make me more aware of Grace. I need to remember that the giants are a matter of perspective, and that rebellion is just going to make me feel buried alive.
The way out of Egypt may need to take me through the desert, but the heat, and the fear, and the heartbreak are just part of the journey. So I’ll be back on the mat, back on the meditation cushion, back to the pause to open to Grace. It’s there, waiting for me to notice.