Sometimes life feels just like that. Life's issues and challenges are bearing down on us and we feel as though there is no escape. Decisions that must be made in order to move forward are daunting, preventing us from moving. We want to blame someone, even ourselves for being in the situation. The Israelites say, let us go back to slavery; it wasn't so bad.
As I contemplate this scripture I can't help but think of the news surrounding Baltimore Raven's player Ray Rice and his wife Janay. On Facebook and in comments on the news sites folks are reacting with indignation to the video which shows the domestic violence that took place in an Atlantic City elevator. Many, obviously, are shocked and angry that Rice hit his then finance, knocking her unconscious. But many are also questioning Janay's role in the situation, asking questions like "Why did she marry him?" and after she made a statement in support of Rice, why she would stand by his side. What I find even more disturbing is that nowhere in these news reports is any evidence of anyone taking action on Janay's behalf, knowing that if she was abused in this manner once, she will probably be abused again. Instead, the issue was covered up until TMZ released video from the elevator.
And this is what brings us to the Exodus passage. It is important to understand that victims of domestic violence, whether it is physical or emotional abuse, often react like the Israelites on the boarder of freedom. It is terrifying to look at that vast sea of the unknown and take that first step. Although slavery to an unhealthy relationship might be very obvious to those on the outside, the victim often sees slavery as the easier and only option. In other words, the slavery you know is better than the freedom you don't.
Before we judge the victim let's consider the complexities around the situation. For the Israelites, the life they knew was at least predictable and stable. For an abused partner or spouse just getting away may seem insurmountable.
Moses tells the people: 'Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.' Although Moses says "keep still" he doesn't mean don't go forward. They are to keep still until Moses is instructed to strike the water and God makes it possible to cross over to freedom. One of the things we can do if we know someone in an abusive relationship is to continue to offer support. Let them know you are there for them. Give them the support they need to stand firm and not be afraid, and be able to see deliverance. Let them know you are praying for them. And finally, if you believe someone is in imminent danger, call the authorities, help them find a safe place, and give them the support they need to cross over to freedom. Let us never be the people who blame the victim. Let us always be the people who reach out with love and care to those who are vulnerable.