How to Find Direction Amid Disorientation
Extreme disorientation can often accompany the most glorious and momentous events in our lives. Fredrick Douglass, the celebrated abolitionist and freed slave, reflected years later on the first days of his freedom. He writes:
“The dreams of my childhood and the purposes of my manhood were now fulfilled. A free state around me, and a free earth under my feet! What a moment was this to me! A whole year was pressed into a single day. A new world burst upon my agitated vision. I have often been asked by kind friends to whom I have told my story, how I felt when first I found myself beyond the limits of slavery; and I must say here, as I have often said to them, there is scarcely anything about which I could not give a more satisfactory answer. It was a moment of joyous excitement, which no words can describe.”
Douglass’ blinding joy was accompanied soon by doubt. Upon meeting a man he had known as a fellow slave in Maryland and being warned of the danger of recapture, he writes:
“A sense of loneliness and helplessness crept over me, and covered me with something bordering on despair. In the midst of thousands of my fellow men, and yet a perfect stranger! In the midst of human brothers, and yet more fearful of them than of hungry wolves! I was without home, without friends, without work, without money, and without any definite knowledge of which way to go, or where to look for succor.”
Few of us will know the overwhelming joy or crippling fear Douglass knew in those early days of freedom, but each of us shares the underlying humanity that prompted those emotions in Douglass. With every seismic shift in our life state, we experience disorientation that causes us to question who we are, what we’re doing, and what God might be doing in it all.
The Ancient Israelites knew that disorientation. Four-hundred years after their forbears had been enslaved in Egypt, they were suddenly free. Where we meet them today in Exodus 19, they are three months into their freedom from slavery. The ancient Israelites are three months separated from the land of Egypt. The callouses of their enslaved hands are still hard. They remember the warmth of their abandoned hearths in the cold desert nights. The specter of Pharaoh’s drowned army still haunts their dreams. The memory of the Red Sea’s water walls is as real as the pillar of smoke and column of fire that leads them night and day. These are the Israelites that come to the Mountain of God in Exodus 19.
Out of disorientation, full of every possible question, God meets His people with some answers. He begins answering their unspoken questions by reminding them of what’s true of Himself. In verse 4 of chapter 19, he reminds them,
“4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine.”
In God’s introduction to the Israelites, there is a profound gem for us to lay hold of; the deepest truths about ourselves are discovered through our relationship with God. He frees us from the slaver that blinds us to our created purpose, and then He treasures us. He takes discarded, oppressed people and saves them into a mighty nation.
The deepest truths about ourselves are discovered through our relationship with God
God saves His people to treasure them. The act of treasure, however, is not static. He has a plan for the treasure He’s won. He equips His people to minister as members of a holy community. If the value imparted to you by being made God’s treasure were not enough, He then gives you an infinitely glorious purpose. He calls the nation of Israel “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” As priests, they are called to mediate the relationship between those around them and God. As a holy nation, they bear this call not as individuals but rather as a community.
Perhaps, as you’ve read, you’ve thought, “Why do you keep applying these promises to me? God was speaking to Israel.” You’re right, he was speaking to Israel, but here we uncover some of the mystery and glory of Christ. In 1 Peter 2:9, referring to all believer, Peter writes,
“you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
This is part of why Jesus came, to extend the promise of Israel to all who would follow Him, and to give us the power to fulfill his call by His grace. If you are in Christ (if you have accepted His sacrifice on your behalf to free you from slavery to sin), God saved you out of darkness into his marvelous light to proclaim all the vast and glorious excellencies of His love, mercy, and joy. That’s your mission and your joy. Step into it today.