Know When to Walk Away

Know When to Walk Away

Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people. Exodus 33:3

When I was in medical school, one of the pediatricians I worked with would give this advice to new parents – If your infant is colicky, regularly crying for no reason, and you’ve made every effort to make sure all his (or her) needs are met, sometimes it’s OK to walk away and let him cry. The pediatrician’s intent was to give parents permission to take a break so that they didn’t lose control and shake their infant. I thought it was terrible advice. Walk away from a crying infant? What kind of parent would do that? Then, I had two colicky infants of my own, who would cry for a couple hours each evening for no apparent reason. In the stress of the screaming, I remembered that pediatrician’s advice and saw it through a new light. Know when to walk away.

Though it’s not the exact same, God did something similar in today’s passage. In the story, the Israelites turned from God’s will, worshipping a golden calf idol. In his wrath, God didn’t abandon his people or his plan for them. He indicated that he was still going to lead them to their future home as he’d promised. But, he said, their disobedience had distanced them from him. They would go, following God’s angel, but God himself stepped away. I’m not sure if it’s possible for God to physically remove himself from anywhere, but as far as the Israelites were concerned, they experienced remoteness from God as a direct result of their sin.

There’s at least a couple of lessons here. First, we must recognize that our disobedience turns us from God. In his wisdom, God allows us to go our own way, living for our own will. We may even avoid any obvious earthly consequences. Turning from God though, always distances us from him. So, if we desire to know a life of faith, we must daily abandon our way to follow his. In doing so, he draws near to us. In going our own way, we distance ourselves from him.

Second, we too, must know when to walk away from evil. I’m not saying that just because God does something that we’re always justified in doing it too, but this and other passages in the Bible support the importance of boundaries. Sometimes, when we’re negatively affected by the toxic behaviors of those around us, we must choose to walk away. When we realize that other’s bad behavior is going to make us act badly, we must consider removing ourselves from the relationship or situation. Know when to walk away.

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