Every year, when the Jewish holiday of Passover rolls around, I think about the places in my life where I feel stuck. I consider how to move through these places to freedom. This year is no different.
What is different, though, is the number of people who feel unable to move forward due to the coronavirus pandemic. Their “normal” life has been put on hold.
The Passover story is one of liberation. And Jews are asked to retell the story as if they are reliving it in the present moment. There’s no better way to accomplish that goal than to consider how to free yourself from the places where you feel constrained or trapped.
Right now, that’s as true for those who aren’t Jewish as those that are.
The Biblical Passover Story
The biblical story that is central to the Passover ritual, called a seder, explains how Moses asked the Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It took 10 plagues to convince the Pharaoh to free the Israelites. However, Pharaoh changed his mind. Trapped at the shore of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army closing in on them, Moses parted the water, and the Israelites managed to pass to safety.
In Hebrew, Egypt is called Mitzrayim, a Hebrew name derived from m’tzarim, meaning “narrow straits.” Thus, the Israelites escape the narrow straights of Egyptian slavery by passing through the parted Red Sea—another narrow place.
What’s that got to do with you, your stuck places, or a pandemic?
Your Narrow Places
No matter your religious beliefs, you can use this biblical story as a way to liberate yourself from whatever constrains you. After all, we all find ourselves in a narrow straight now.
We are faced with a global plague—the Covid-19 coronavirus—and confined to our homes. The order to “shelter in place” has caused us to feel stuck, and everyone would like to be free again to live fully.
To relive the story and move toward freedom, ask yourself:
- Where am I stuck or constrained?
- What’s my “narrow place”?
Answer honestly, but don’t just say, “I’m constrained to my home” of “My home is my narrow place.” Look beyond the obvious and beyond this moment in time. Specifically, look to your past.
Until the Covid-19 pandemic changed your life, maybe your narrow straight was your income level, marriage, health condition, or job. If so, you were unhappy with this area of your life and felt stuck. The more stuck you got, the more constrained you felt.
Get clear about your m’tzarim—before the pandemic. What restricted you or your life?
Humanity’s Common Narrow Place
You may not realize it, but your so-called normal life constrained you. In fact, you were a slave to that life.
Modern life is hectic and chaotic. Before Covid-19, you spent a lot of time racing to work and back, taking the kids from one activity to another, rushing to the gym, bank, grocery store, or to meet friends or family at restaurants, movie theaters, bars, or other places. You felt obligated to meet deadlines, earn a certain amount of money, do what was expected of you, and keep up with your responsibilities.
While some people are homebodies and live a slower-paced life, the majority of the world lives on overdrive. And that, in and of itself, enslaves us and prevents us from living fully and freely. Plus, the habits we formed by living that life keep us stuck as well.
A harried life filled with obligations and constant running to and fro leaves little space or time for deep connection with self, others, or God, let alone to feel fulfillment, joy, and gratitude from your actions or accomplishments. It doesn’t allow you to stop and smell the proverbial roses.
Indeed, most of us have been slaves to the lives we created. We have worked long hours to afford that life. And our habitual ways of being in the world kept us doing the same things over and over without new results.
Worse, we didn’t realize we were enslaved, which means we didn’t know that we needed liberating.
What a Plagues Shows You
Right now, you and I—indeed, the entire world—face a plague of immense power. The Covid-19 pandemic threatens our lives and the lives of our loved ones.
We are faced with death. It’s all around us and reminds us always that we could be next. Our life could end quickly.
When faced with death, people commonly make an accounting of their lives. They see how they have been living and become acutely aware of the shortcomings of their way of being in the world. They begin to feel regret for what they didn’t do or how they lived.
But, if they don’t die, these same people often realize they have a second chance…another opportunity to live differently.
The Covid-19 pandemic—the plague we all face right now—could take your life or give you new life. Which option do you choose?
I hope you choose to live differently.
You have an Opportunity
You have the opportunity to allow this plague to change your mind about that normal life you’ve lived until now. Will Covid-19 increase your level of constriction, or will it free you?
Yes, the Covid-19 pandemic has restricted your way of living and your future plans—at least for the time being. But it also provides an opportunity to choose something different—to choose freedom.
You have a chance to alter your beliefs, change how you treat others, or choose a different way of life. You can decide to be liberated on an emotional, spiritual, and mental level. You have the opportunity to determine how to show up and how to live going forward.
Will you remain enslaved or will you free yourself?
Will you go back to your ordinary life or create an extra-ordinary one?
When the Pandemic Ends
This pandemic will end. If you use this plague to drive you toward freedom, you and your life can be transformed for the better when that happens.
Stop saying “no,” like the Egyptian Pharaoh. Instead, say “yes,” and commit to liberating yourself from the normal, ordinary life you’ve lived to date.
How you approach your time while sheltered in place can determine whether or not you emerge from Mitzrayim happy, hopeful, and with a plan for crossing the Red Sea. It can mean the difference between remaining in slavery to the life you used to live or escaping to freedom and the life you want to live going forward.
When you think of your “normal” life, why would you like to be liberated? Tell me in a comment below. And if you found this post helpful, please share it with a friend or two.
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