Egypt’s Whip and the Shepherd’s StaffPosted: February 10, 2011
“Just Stop It!” I nearly bellowed the words, mad woman swinging crazy.
The bickering, the whining, the children who demand and wear and exhaust.The chaos starts and an inner valve is opened and out drains all my inner resources. I’m limp. To fight the draining away, I turn on my kids.
The children I love dearly. The children who need guidance and training, who need a healthy alternative to their inborn sinful habits. The children who need a parent.
Maybe I’m the most childish of all.
Childish or not, it’s still my job to shepherd these little ones, and I ask Him once again, “How, Lord?”
The truth is that all I’ve ever known is Egypt’s whip, the driving slash of expectation without mercy. It’s the way I was parented: the task-mastering, the demanding, the condemnation.
It became the way I parented myself, the berating self that kept a body broken pushing forward.
I didn’t realize that until I was faced with the deep issues of parenting. That is when I kept reaching for a tool to deal with hard issues and Egypt’s whip was the one I kept coming up with.
How does one parent a different way than one has led herself?
It was all I knew.
I wanted change. I wanted something else. I hated the strong words, the high emotions, the use of force. I looked and grasped and tried for something different, but there was just nothing else there when the moment came and I fumbled for a response.
Yet what parent hasn’t tasted the effectiveness of condemnation? Shame? Guilt? Anger? Strong words? A Biting tongue? What parent hasn’t learned that control holds a degree of power? After all, Egypt was built on the backs of slaves.
It’s the taste of blood, the sting of tearing flesh that says there has to be a better way.
How does one become untrained in Egypt’s whip? How does one become un-duped…after she has fully believed that more stringent demands and less provisions of grace will result in harder work and double the outcome?
And then came the day when I saw it, right there in scripture, clear as day, the instruction for all those who like me, have been tutored under taskmasters.
I’m reading Exodus when I see it, how Egypt finds its strength and power in the crack and slash of the whip. The Israelites had only known control through force.
So God sent a shepherd.
A shepherd who beheld God in holy bush, who heard sacred truth, who was given one tool to lead the people out, handed one key to single-handedly bring freedom to a nation: “Take up this staff, for with it you shall… do… My…wonders.” Exodus 4:17
When God sent deliverance, He started by giving a completely different model of leadership.
The whip is replaced with a Shepherd’s staff. The rod and staff of the Shepherd bring comfort, not pain. (Psalm 23:4)
The driving from behind is replaced with a Shepherd who leads from the front. Follow, not force. (John 10:4)
And the Shepherd? He leads with His voice. (John 10:27)
How precious a truth!
Understanding these truths about God changed the way I led myself. The self-condemnation, shame, brow beating, they all ebbed away.
My parenting style began to change as well.
Once I understood the temptation to believe in the power of the whip, I knew how to fight back. I began rejecting the lie of the whip and the strong emotions it evoked and began to embrace the power of the staff instead.
What power? you ask. Indeed, a Shepherd’s staff looks impotent. But in Exodus 14:16 God told Moses, “As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry ground.”
The staff is the tool God has blessed to part the waters.
A revolutionary truth in my life, that one.
The simple, unpretentious and humble is the blessed of God to part the waters in our lives, our homes, our world.
So today, I will set down the whip and take up the staff, the instrument with which we do God’s wonders.