Where I’m From

The title of this post is taken from a poem of the same name by Willie Perdomo.

In the poem, Perdomo recounts in stunning & visceral imagery, onomatopoeia, similes, metaphors, dialogue and sensory details where he grew up. His past. His story. The what that makes him anything. I treasure this poem not only for its literary & social-revolutionary value–it’s been studied, imitated, pastiched, loved by students and urban poets all across this nation–but also because it reminds me to remember my story.

It’s like when God commands the Israelites over and over again to “remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy everywhere).

This used to confuse me. Why would God tell his newly freed children-becoming-warrior-nation to remember that they were slaves? Why would He want them to remember such a painful, terrible, terrifying and humiliating dehumanizing period of their story? Of their past? Why would He command them to do such a thing? After weeks of asking, here’s what I found so far:

1. so they would remember to rest/keep a Sabbath, trusting God & not living constantly in survival mode (Deut. 5:15)

2. to keep them from following wack advice of false crazy prophets/seers (Deut. 13:4-5)

3. so that they would not repeat the cycle of dehumanization on each other–a Hebrew slave was to be set free in the 7th year, and they were not to be sent away empty-handed (Deut. 15:15)

4. so they would be generous and kind to the foreigner, widow and orphan living among them, making sure to leave olives & grapes for them (Deut. 24:20)

5. to never forget the power, kindness, awesomeness, and greatness of the God they belong to

6. to remain humble and compassionate towards other’s suffering

It’s safe to say that for those of us who have said a resounding “YES!” of surrender to God, He will take us through ups, downs, adventures, this city, that city, this community, that community. Most of us will see extraordinary things. We’ll want to bury and forget our humble beginnings…but the second we deny that we were once slaves, we dismiss the great love, compassion, and absolute authority of our God who sovereignly delivered us from slave-dom. Seriously, the Israelites–who were slaves, mind you–freely left Egypt decked out in royal linen and gold. Talk about a successful slave uprising!

It’s also safe to say that all of us will walk through periods when there’s just wilderness all around us; when we can’t make heads or tails of what’s happening. We’ll be tempted to think that “it was so much better when we were in Egypt.” We’ll want to go back to before we said that resounding “YES!” because for some reason after we said “YES!” to God, it seems like all the armies of hell suddenly started chasing us. We’ll be tempted to say, “Can I get a refund? This Christian life ain’t so breezy after all.”

So I confess. Recently I’d been forgetting where I came from, what I was delivered from, how God saved me, all the crazy miracles He did when He brought me out of my personal Egypt. Because I’d gotten bitter and shriveled about my life, how it’s “not working” the way I wanted or expected. How I’m “so tired” of not seeing the promised land yet. I’ve said on occasion, at the peaks of my petulant frustration and arrogance, “God, if you don’t do X, Y, and Z soon, then that’s it. We’re over.” I’m so thankful He hasn’t taken me seriously when I’ve said dumb things like that.

I’d like to say that this petulance is now gone from my life until forever, but to be honest, I may be tempted to say dumb things like this again while on this planet, wishing for when life was simpler in Egypt.

But then I’ll have to remember–hold up. I was a slave in Egypt! Why would I ever want to go back? 

I’ll have to trust deeply that God is God and He’s got me.

Because He’s shown me I’m royalty, no longer a slave; and royalty can rightly carry the weight of freedom.

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