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EAL #12 – Exile and Redemption 

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The Beautiful Conundrum of Family

If you think you’re enlightened, spend a week with your family. (Ram Dass)

In the last letter (there’s no “news” here, so “letter” will do I think), I talked about the uncrossable distance between ourselves and others and the blinding beauty on offer when we accept this distance and can see the wholeness of another. I mentioned how relationship is all too often a dance of our trying to control another and them trying to please us or them trying to control us and us attempting to please them. 

In my neck of the woods it’s Passover time, and Passover time is family time — like peak, come from near and far and farther and eat and eat and eat, family time. Nowhere is this control or be controlled dynamic more prevalent than family. And small wonder it is so. 

We are bound in blood. We live together, are most comfortable with each other, and (regrettably) take each other for granted. Our nervous systems fire together and wire together, and wire is a good word because our family triggers are so sensitive the gentlest wrong touch sets off the wildest internal explosions.

Our deepest hopes and aspirations are for our family. We displace our dreams on each other, parents and grandparents all too often looking to their children to live out their own unfulfilled lives.  We want our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, to be something, the presence we need, the friends we want, the pride we’d love.

Exile and Exodus

Perhaps our family environment is an Egypt of sorts, a native-but-foreign environment we are born into and shaped by through a mixture of the well-intentioned, the reactive, the loving, and the neglectful. Invariably, it is never a perfect fit, as only we can hope to know our nature in the manner necessary to find our size. 

As we grow, we begin our personal Exodus, our attempt to find our Israel, our homeland. There is a pining within, a call to return home, to grow comfortable in our own skin and let go of all our attempts to be something for all those others who may have liked us, or still would like us, to be so many things. 

Redemption and Reconciliation

But redemption is a process, it is not achieved merely by leaving Egypt. We are tied too closely to our birthplace, we carry its dreams and delusions, hopes and habits in us. It is not easy to leave the mindsets of exile. It is scary to stand apart, to declare who we are on our own terms — not in concession to, but also not in reaction to, our place of origin. 

You must first wander in the desert, exploring the parched nooks and crannies of your soul, wandering lost upon the endless, silent sand. For only in the silence, in the spaces devoid of all the many attempts to become something for someone, can we learn to see who we actually are, can we find redemption and come home. 

And we must find redemption if we’re to achieve reconciliation. I must learn to be, if I am to let you be, see my own beauty, if I’m to see yours. When we bring our exiled selves home, we become a lighthouse that calls to others to find their own way home. We shine in a way that pierces the clouds. We begin to see the love that is pulsating wildly underneath but often knows not how best to pour forth. Who better to call home than our own family. 

Wherever you are and whatever you celebrate, may you find beautiful reconciliation with those closest to you.


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