No Easy Thing: The Half-Won Blessing, 2

Did you hear about the guy who was addicted to brake fluid?

He said he could stop any time he wanted. . . .

We all have our addictions. Whether it’s full-blown alcoholism or drug addiction or something we think of as milder, the key feature of addiction is that disconnect between what we want ourselves to do and what we’re able to actually do.

At Passover, we celebrate the blessings of our freedom and also reflect on what greater liberation would be. Pharaoh has many forms of bondage – addictions to video games or shopping or work or emotional habits of anger, blame, and judgment. What Pharaoh holds you in bondage in Egypt?

Freedom is ever the half-won blessing. Its unfinished work lies before us. As they say in the recovery community: you can be consumed by your addiction -- or you can be recovering. Recovering – but never recovered.

It is rare indeed for a human to attain complete freedom. New chains appear. Old chains return. And their constraints are often so comfortable, for a while. It’s no easy thing to commit to a path of freedom, of liberation.

Here are four questions:
  1. Can you make a decisive break with a big part of your past?
  2. Can you endure the sacrifices this will mean?
  3. What about the effects this will have on others?
  4. Are there others who can go with you on this journey, who can walk with you on the path to liberation?
The Passover story gives us a narrative structure for wrestling with each of these questions.

First, can you make the decisive break?

This is the "not waiting for the bread to rise" part. Even under the worst of conditions, there is some leavening in the loaf. What, give that up? Our addictions and our judgmentalism offer us creature comforts that are like a nice, hot yeasty loaf. What harm could it do to let one more batch of dough rise?

Is it really necessary for the sake of freedom that we make do with the blandest unsalted crackers? Yes, it is. At some point we have to say: no more delays, no more putting it off. That’s going to mean something that was in the pipeline has to be abandoned. The bread won’t have a chance to rise. Is that a reason to stay in bondage? It’s those little rationalizations that keep us stuck, isn’t it? Can you make the decisive break?

Second, can you endure the sacrifices?

Unleavened bread is nothing compared to hardships and trials on the path to freedom. It’s scary out there. The status quo has fierce armies to enforce its way. Days after leaving Egypt, the Israelites see Pharaoh’s army advancing on them. They cry out to Moses:
“Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (Ex 14: 11-12)
Powerful resources are arrayed against you to enforce the old way. And you don’t have the resources you need to support the new way.

Fondly remembered fleshpot (pot of meat stew)
A few weeks after leaving Egypt, the people moan again to Moses:
“If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Ex. 16: 3)
The path to freedom is risky and uncertain. Can you endure the sacrifices?

Next: Questions 3 and 4.

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This is part 2 of 5 of "The Half-Won Blessing"
Next: Part 3: Goldilocks Responsibility
Beginning: Part 1: Bring Out the Festal Bread

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