Monday, May 9, 2011
No Retreat Option
Every year at Easter we watch The Ten Commandments, Cecil B. DeMille’s epic 1956 remake of his 1923 film. One comment by Pharaoh (Yul Brynner) caught my attention this time. When the fleeing slaves were at the edge of the sea, he said, “The God of Moses is a poor general. He leaves them no retreat.” While it was great for dramatic effect, it was impractical. The Hebrew slaves, beaten up and beaten down for four centuries, were in no condition to disengage the Egyptian army and plan a battle strategy!
As the movie continued, the idea quickly shifted from the language of battle to that of return. That is, the recurring theme was that the slaves return to the hellhole they had left. A few thousand exemplary executions would have been the price for their return to even more ruthless oppression in their former life as slaves. But it was a life they’d known for a long time. This theme was in tension with that of faith, trusting God to take them through their obstacles and lead them to their destiny. In the historical events on which the movie was based, the problem of food and water was solved, as were other issues of leadership. When the Hebrew people first scouted out the Promised Land, only two of the scouts recommended confronting the last obstacle (giants in the place), while the other ten counseled fear. The result was continued wandering in a wasteland for forty more years.
I think the power of Brynner’s taunting statement hits home when I consider domestic violence. But first, let me cover my trail a bit. This was a turning point after the slaves had made a decision (yes, they could have decided to remain where they were). The tensions involved were all in the context of going back to, not escaping from, an oppressive relationship. It would be an unexpected reading of this article to consider it as counsel concerning any existing relationship; I’m addressing only the subject of continuing on course versus turning back.
Staying the course is a recurring theme in human history. So is seeking the perceived comfort of the oppressive relationship. A legend in ancient Sparta told of a mother who killed her son because he had a wound in his back. Lot’s wife became salty when she looked back on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan has his protagonist outfitted with frontal armor for his upcoming battle with Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation. In Ephesians 11, the author describes the “whole armor of God” in terms of that of Roman soldiers. There is a breastplate, but not a backplate. (I’m not going to address the wrap-around armor of Europeans, but will leave that consideration for you.)
After you’ve made your escape from an oppressive relationship, and you find yourself deserted by those who once cheered you on, there’s often the sound of a limb being sawed off. Or you’re feeling hung out to dry, because all the support and encouragement are gone. This is where a return to the old life of oppression starts taking on an attractive appearance. This is where the expression “better the devil you know, than. . .” rears its ugly head in your own Valley of Humiliation. This is where you can be vulnerable to unproductive counsel from those you’re around.
But this is where I counsel faith and trust. The resources available through many on this site -- people who have “been there” -- can either directly or indirectly through referrals help you to get through your journey. In deMille’s movie God used Moses’ staff and an east wind to part the sea. Your obstacles may be as dramatic as an army of chariots on one side and death by drowning on the other, but they’re still very real. And it is vital that you get the continued encouragement from those who have seen those obstacles overcome in their own lives.
If you’re not getting this encouragement from friends or family, it may be time to take a breather from those relationships and replace them with fellow-travelers. After you’ve regrouped, rebuilt, and returned to a healthy track, then is the time for you to invite your discouragers back into your inner circle. Your destiny of healing, recovery, and a new life need not be sidetracked by those who would sow a spirit of fear.
My hope goes a bit beyond that. It’s for those things just mentioned, but also for you one day to become one of those who can support those who are starting their own journeys. Yes, this is my level of confidence in the idea of keeping your hand on the plow and not looking back.
Grace and Peace,
The opinions and information expressed in the individual posts do not necessarily reflect the opinions of each contributor of "Time's Up!" nor the opinion of the blog owner and administrator. The comments are the opinion and property of the individuals who leave them on the posts and do not express the opinion of the authors, contributors or the blog owner and administrator.