Moses left Egypt twice, under very different circumstances. Perhaps this is always how it must be. The first time he left his adopted home he was ashamed. He’d murdered an oppressive man to protect a slave, only to realize that in the eyes of that slave he was the most oppressive man alive. Perhaps we all have to experience moments when we’re confronted with the fact that we’re not the good guy, when we’re the evil we’ve been railing against, when our professed heroism is exposed as self-serving, convenient, and naive.

Moses, the murderer, ran.

But after a humbling and bewildering four decades, Moses returned to Egypt. He left Pharaoh’s court as an Israeli in Egyptian clothes; he returned as an exile who had disavowed his inheritance and taken up with slaves. Moses confronted the powers of Egypt once again, but not with murder. It must have cost Moses to do so—the complaining of Miriam and Aaron, the discomfort of the plagues, the terror and fury of the court. But I can’t help hypothesizing that Moses could have murdered Pharaoh. He was close enough, probably, to do it himself. But Moses’ murdering days were done.

Maybe we always have to come back if we leave the wrong way. Maybe the past is a vacuum until we disconnect the power that keeps sucking us in. Maybe God is more interested in how we do things than simply that we do them.