We say you’re not crazy if you talk to yourself; you’re only crazy if you answer. Well to tell you the truth that isn’t crazy either. Our running internal dialogue is probably what separates us most from even the most sophisticated other animals on earth—dolphins, orcas, chimpanzees, and elephants. But this isn’t what’s most important. What’s most important is what we do with what we say to ourselves. We talk to ourselves all the time what we need to do is answer back.
Don’t just let yourself babble away. We ought to take a closer listen to what we’re saying, or what we’re hearing. Or both. I know; this is confusing. When you hear from yourself something you don’t like about yourself, guess what, you don’t have to listen, accept it, or act on it. It’s just you.
I’ve taught two of my older children to drive and I’m working with Linnea now. I still have two to go! One of my favorite sayings about driving is: Know that you know. It’s not good enough to look and go or look and don’t go. Safe driving requires more. You need to know what you saw, and the only way to do that is to know that you know. In other words, you’ve got to tell yourself, so you can know that you know, that there’s no car there. The awareness of being aware of what’s happening, that knowing that you know there’s a car or no car, is internal dialogue. It’s helped me many times to avoid dangerous situations.
More than about cars and traffic: Hear what you’re hearing. Listen to what you’re listening to. The stories you’re saying to yourself quietly, continually, shouldn’t be repeated any longer maybe. New, better, truer ones are required. It’s time for an updated script.
The stories you tell yourself are crucial. What you’ve settled on for your narrative weaves the fabric of your life. How many good guys and bad guys you give roles to, how many good girls and bad girls you’re still giving roles to influences so much, for example. Yeah, the world’s a stage, we may be actors but even more so we’re playwrights, first.
Groups often have those epic stories that they tell again and again. Our scripture today, maybe more than any other, was that story for the nation of Israel and still is for Jewish people. They loved to tell about how God rescued them from Pharaoh’s army and brought them out of Egypt.
God’s covenant with Abraham and Sarah was continued through Jacob, whose family was now in Egypt. They stayed there long after the famine, and grew very numerous, so much so that it made the Egyptians nervous. The Israelites were seen as a threat. They were forced into slavery. The Israelites
were treated harshly, brutally. God heard their cries and called Moses as a leader, speaking to him through the burning bush. A reluctant leader at first, Moses nevertheless went before Pharaoh and said, “Let my people go.” But Pharaoh was not going to do that without a little push, a little incentive.
So, God sent plagues upon the Egyptians. There were ten in all: the Nile turned to blood, there were plagues of frogs and gnats and flies, a pestilence came upon livestock, there were boils and hail and locusts and darkness. It was basically one big disaster movie. But Pharaoh was stubborn and still wouldn’t let the people go. God told Moses, one more plague and Pharaoh will relent. The Egyptians will in fact drive you away, they’ll be so eager to get rid of you.
It was the plague of death, and every firstborn male in Egypt died. This death passed over the Israelites who had dabbed lamb’s blood on their doorposts. This is the still-called Passover event and why Jesus is called the Passover Lamb, or the Lamb of God—because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God passes over our sin, forgives, and gives eternal life.
After the Passover for the Hebrews in Egypt, there was a great outcry in the land and Pharaoh relented. The Israelites packed quickly, so quickly they didn’t wait for their dough to rise. This is where Passover unleavened bread comes from. As God had promised, the Israelites asked their Egyptian neighbors for silver and gold jewelry and clothing, and they gladly gave it to get them as a parting gift to get them out of the land – a kind of reparation for the years of forced labor.
So, the Israelites left. They took Joseph’s bones with them, as he had asked so many years before. God went before the Israelites as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They traveled a roundabout way and camped in the wilderness by the sea. But when the reality of their leaving hit Pharaoh, he changed his mind. To give up this massive pool of free labor wasn’t easy.
He got his army ready, with 600 choice chariots along with other chariots. Apparently, there were 600 limited edition, turbo-powered chariots along with some standard-issue chariots, many soldiers, and top members of his officer corps. The people saw the Egyptian army advancing on them and panicked. The Red Sea was before them and behind them was the Egyptian army. There was no escape.
As to be expected, hysteria and fear swept through the people. “What, were there no graves in Egypt that you had to bring us out here to die?” they asked/screamed at Moses. “We told you to just leave us alone and let us serve Pharaoh.” It sounds a little like Stockholm syndrome. How could they
have wanted to stay in Egypt? How could they prefer to stay with their captors? Well, their cries and complaints ring true. As bad as it may be, it can be easier to hold on to what we know than to journey into the unknown.
So, here they are, on the edge of the sea, Pharaoh and his army approaching, the people melting in fear. Moses tells the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm and see God’s deliverance. God will fight for you. You only need to keep still.” But immediately, God overrules Moses. There are different instructions. “Why are you crying to me? Tell the people to move forward.” It had to be confusing. They had been through so much; they had come all this way. They finally had freedom, and not just that, they had wealth! Just when they were beginning to feel the exhilaration of freedom, here came the Egyptian army.
What to do. Moses followed God’s instruction; the people moved forward and as they did so, Moses stretched out his arms and the waters parted. The Israelites walked through on dry ground. The pillar that had been ahead of them now went behind them. The Egyptian army followed, but they became confused by the pillar of fire and cloud. The chariots became stuck in the mud. When Moses stretched his hand again, the waters covered the Egyptian army. The Jewish people escaped to dry land, and their people were freed from slavery.
This escape through the waters is retold again and again throughout the Old Testament. This story is the most important self-dialogue of the Jewish people. They weren’t meant for slavery; they were meant for freedom. Moses knew this and he refused to let them stay as they were. He heard God proclaim his love for his people and that word became Moses’ word to himself, and the people.
We’re not meant to stay where we don’t belong. We’re not meant to listen to false words that imprison us. God’s word liberates. Don’t surrender to false narratives. Eject a tape that’s leading you to live far from your destiny. Rewrite chapters of your life. You’re darn right you’re a protagonist and a hero.
A small business owner owed a large sum of money to a loan-shark. The loan-shark was a very old, unattractive guy who fancied the business owner’s daughter. He decided to offer the businessman a deal: the debt for the daughter. The proposal was met with a look of disgust.
The loan-shark said that he would place two pebbles into a bag, one white and one black. The daughter would then have to reach into the bag and pick out a pebble. If it was white, the debt would be wiped, but the loan-
shark would then marry her. If it was black, the debt would also be wiped, but the daughter wouldn’t have to marry the loan-shark.
Standing on a pebble-strewn path in the businessman’s garden, the loan-shark bent over and picked up two pebbles. While he was picking them up, the daughter noticed that he’d picked up two black white and placed them both into the bag. He then asked the daughter to reach into the bag and pick one.
The daughter naturally had three choices as to what she could have done. She could refuse to pick a pebble from the bag. Take both pebbles out of the bag and expose the loan-shark for cheating. Pick a pebble from the bag knowing it was black and sacrifice herself for her father’s freedom.
This is what she did. She drew out a pebble from the bag, but before showing it, she “accidentally” dropped it on the ground with all the other white and black pebbles. She looked down, then looked up at the loan-shark and said, “Oh, how clumsy of me. Never mind, if you take the one remaining in the bag, you’ll be able to tell which pebble I picked.” The pebble left in the bag is obviously white, and seeing as the loan-shark didn’t want to be exposed, he had to play along, as if the pebble the daughter dropped was black, and clear her father’s debt.
How’s that for quick thinking? How’s that for not being overwhelmed? There’s a hero of her own life, hers and her dad’s stories.
We may think we’re stuck, but good thinking can clear a way forward. Don’t get stuck because you’re overwhelmed. Take some time to think freed of worry or guilt or fear or shame or doubt.
God was with the Israelites in the hardest times they faced, going ahead of them in the pillar of cloud and fire when they needed leading, and going behind them when they needed protection.
We face things that seem beyond us. But they’re not. Think better. Feel better. Hope better. God’s word is freedom. The Lord points forward. Like Moses, we need to trust the good word. Make sure you’re hearing it. Know that you know you have space in front of you, even if it looks like it’s an ocean of difficulties. Move closer in God’s direction and let the Lord part the way and the waves.
Can the church say Amen?