Friday, February 18, 2011

Painting Pictures of Egypt

I’ve been feeling a bit disoriented these past few days.  The feeling started, I think, after I discovered the apparent extent of gossip in my ward about me and my wife and I began thinking in more concrete terms about moving out - soon.  This feeling intensified as I met with a potential housemate, and the reality of everything came more sharply into focus. 

During these past days, I have had thoughts about when I will pull away from the house for the last time as a resident, to ever after return as only a visitor; about how I will miss aspects of the life I have known for 20+ years; about how I will adjust to living with friends instead of family.  These thoughts have engendered “peculiar” feelings – feelings that I do not try to shoo away, because I know they are normal and natural – but feelings that nonetheless make me feel uncomfortable, edgy, disoriented.

As I have contemplated these feelings, I have thought repeatedly of a song to which I was recently introduced by a new friend. (Thanks, Kevin.)  Entitled Painting Pictures of Egypt, it describes life experiences that are analogous to the Israelites leaving everything that was familiar to them in Egypt, trying to exercise faith in the promise of a new and better home, all the while wandering, wandering, wandering in the desert wilderness.

I don’t want to leave here
I don’t want to stay
It feels like pinching to me either way
The places I long for the most
Are the places where I’ve been
They are calling after me like a long lost friend

Listening to these lyrics also has brought to mind recent experiences of a friend who has already passed through the looking glass from heterosexual marriage to openly living as a gay man.  For reasons known to himself, he has recently had occasion to feel pangs of regret (?) for the pain his actions may have caused his former wife, causing him (from my vantage point) to experience similar feelings of disorientation.

It’s not about losing faith
It’s not about trust
It’s all about comfortable
When you move so much
The place I was wasn’t perfect
But I had found a way to live
It wasn’t milk or honey
But then neither is this

I have also thought of a young closeted married man who has recently come out to himself, then subsequently to his wife.  His relationship with his wife has been changed; it will never again – regardless of the eventual outcome – be the same as it was before he began his journey.  That realization has brought a sense of disorientation to him as well, along with sadness and pain.

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacked
The future seems so hard
And I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
And those roads closed off to me
While my back was turned

The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy to discard
I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
Caught between the promise
And the things I know

Aspects of the past are indeed comfortable, but as we paint pictures of it in our mind, we often tend to leave out things, particularly when the future seems so hard, so uncertain.  The truth, of course, is that we cannot go back, only forward.

Here is Sara Groves singing this plaintive ballad, Painting Pictures of Egypt.


  1. I am blessed to call you my friend - - and I'm thankful the Lord has allowed our paths to cross. Just remember - - keep your eyes forward, because that is where you will find the promised land!

  2. This is a great song that I have heard before since my daughter loves Sara Groves. But I had never applied it to my own circumstances of leaving my family.

    It has been a somewhat discombobulating period and I have experienced pangs of regret over my wife like your friend has. Actually I am committed to the future and moving on, but sometimes I feel like the Israelites longing for the leeks and garlic of Egypt while searching for the milk and honey of the Promised Land.

  3. Good song, intense meaning. I feel this often....