Written on the top of the page are these six words; “You have no obligation to Pharaoh.”
Those conversation notes are almost a year old, but yet, when reviewed, spoke to me again today. I don’t remember all the details of that particular spiritual-direction session, but I do remember the feeling. The tension of anxiousness and despair. The gift of freedom delivered in gentle prophetic words.
“You have no obligation to Pharaoh.”
Perhaps every person hears it with a slightly different tone. For we are all, in our own ways, charmed by the character of Pharaoh.
However, it’s shortsighted to only see Pharaoh embodied as those “in power.” For that is not the point. “Pharaoh” need not be a specific person…it is a posture of power. It is the lure of anyone or thing who disregards human dignity and worth. And, lest we miss the obvious point of the gospel narrative, God is not idly content or controlled by these imitation powers. God has already declared, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” (Ex 9:1)
Perhaps addiction is the best present-day description of Pharaoh. For in every addiction there is a hidden human desire being sought and satisfied. Like in our addictions; comfort, security, and basic worth is being met in Pharaoh’s rule. And although we recognize its abusive power, we surrender our dignity for the sake of being served. The thought of freedom to choose now becomes a fear itself.
As Gerald May wrote in his book Addiction and Grace, “Once attachment is fully entrenched, our motivations become so mixed that freedom to choose is seriously compromised.”
It’s easy to see the character of Pharaoh at work in the obvious attachments of drugs/alcohol/crowds. But the daily heart-and-life addictions of the Pharaoh culture we live within are more difficult to confess.
- We begin to expose the attitude of Pharaoh when we examine our addiction to being right. Our addiction to our own way of thinking. The curse of individual certitude. The judgement of others that condemns only ourselves.
- We acknowledge the scarcity-driven anxiety of Pharaoh when we confess our own addiction to consume without regard for our neighbor or creation. Our insatiable want. Our willful covetousness of more than enough.
- We expose the insecurity of Pharaoh when we confess our own tribal behavior, our racism, our neglect of the Imago Dei (Image of God in Genesis 1:27) of every human.
These are a few of the heart-and-life patterns we have become entrenched within. Perhaps, to find freedom from the attachment to the culture of Pharaoh, we need to hear those words again…
You have no obligation to Pharaoh.