Painting Pictures of Egypt

Posted: November 25, 2008 in Uncategorized
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If you’re not familiar with Sara Groves’ music, please listen to her sometime. I’ve quoted her in an earlier post, and once again I come back to her incredible lyrics. The song is titled “Painting Pictures of Egypt,” and it is a beautiful description of her struggle as a Christian for contentment in God’s plan. Here is just the chorus and a verse of it (please read carefully):

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacked
The future seems so hard
And I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
And those roads closed off to me
While my back was turned

The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy to discard
I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
Caught between the promise
And the things I know

Though I’ve heard this song before, listening to it after reading my sister’s post on contentment prompted me to evaluate my heart anew.

I’ve found myself slipping into the habit of internally reminiscing about my “Egypt,” younger years of fewer responsibilities and a carefree life. The demands of college life have tempted me to regress to longing for the ease of elementary and high school years; longing to go back to a time when I could finish school and play outside with neighbors. But in reality, I’m “painting pictures of Egypt, leaving out what it lacks.” In elementary years, I couldn’t wait to grow up and be able to drive and make money, to embrace more responsibilities. “I was dying for some freedom, But now I hesitate to go” In high school, I worked proportionally as hard for school as I do now, and struggled consistently with social acceptance. Why then, have I constructed memories of these years that are so misconstrued from reality? Why have I blotted out the struggles of my Egyptian years that were just as difficult? Why would I want to go back when, by God’s grace, I’m being led into the Promised Land?

“The future seems so hard
And I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned”

It’s easy to read about the Israelites and distinguish myself from them. Condescendingly, I pity their quickness to desert God’s plan and go back to a former time of difficulty simply because it was familiar and predictable. And yet, that’s me: “The past is so tangible
I know it by heart.” Longing to wander back to a place without challenges or struggles to avoid facing new obstacles, I paint obscured pictures of Egypt. Previous seasons of life were, without a doubt, providential in their own time. But now they are foundations on which God wants to build me up more, to sanctify me more. “The places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned.”

God, help me to confidently press forward to the Promised Land, knowing You are leading me from former times of bondage to the majestic place of freedom. Help me keep my eyes forward, not even sneaking a look back like Lot’s wife (knowing what happened to her). Father, never let me forget that the future provides so much more hope than living with backward aspirations. My trust lies in you. Amen.

  1. Laurie says:

    Ummm. Great thoughtful lyrics from Sara Groves.
    Going back would never be the same. We know now what we didn’t and couldn’t know then. That’s a good thing. The only reason to go back is if I could do things again knowing what I didn’t know then! Obviously?
    You are so right though! “Previous seasons of life were, without a doubt, providential in their own time.”

  2. Stephen says:

    Yes, Sara Groves is a wonderfully gifted lyrical artist. It’s amazing how God allows us to learn in time, to progress and grow in knowledge and trust gradually. What a blessing.

    As for that line, “Previous seasons of life were, without a doubt, providential in their own time,” I actually had to add that in after posting since, after reading it back, I realized that it sounded as if I was making the past out to be intrinsically bad or something. On the contrary, every moment of our lives is a gift from God, but a gift to be enjoyed when God grants them and at no other time. The past can be remembered fondly, but should never be seen as greater than the present or the future.

  3. Stephen says:

    Although it does seem tempting sometimes to go back, knowing the things I know now. But I would just mess up in different ways, so it wouldn’t really be any better for me 🙂

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