Updated on December 30, 2016
Stepping into new things
He wants to try a new sport, this routine loving boy of mine. The basketball court has been his second home for so many seasons that we’ve lost count. But not this winter, he tells us. Wrestling. He wants to do wrestling. He wants to try a new thing.
It’s going to be awesome, really, he promises as he shows us pictures of the gear he needs. My husband and I raise our eyebrows over his head. Basketball, football, soccer, baseball, we’ve done it all and have mounds of gear in our garage to prove it. But wrestling? Isn’t that what I am constantly telling these boys to stop doing as the floors shake and the chandelier swings?
I know nothing about this next thing he wants to do. Won’t you miss basketball? We try to push him on this because we know a bit about being 11 and making choices. But he is nothing if not persistent. So we do a little research, we buy the gear, and we sign the papers.
Yes, we tell him, go on and do the new thing. We are proud of your adventurous spirit, proud of your desire to try something unknown. Because in the end we don’t really care if you are an athletic star, we just want you to learn how to walk confidently into all of your new things.
And last night he did just that, smiling all the way.
Ever wonder what your new thing is? Ever look around and realize that you have been doing the same thing for so long that you have forgotten how to change? Ever long for a new and different season?
New things can be scary. They are unknown and uncertain places to stand and fear of them can often keep us stuck in same things because, well, we know how to do same things.
I am nervously leaning into my own new things. And as I listen to the sweaty boy tell stories of his first practice, it is the story of Joshua and the Israelites, the one I read just this morning with my steaming cup and half-opened eyes, that comes to mind. Joshua was the leader of the Israelites who took over after Moses died. Talk about a new thing! Joshua’s job was to finally lead the people into the Promise Land. They were right on the edge of it. But as they approached the land, the rushing and roaring of the Jordan River loomed large in front of them.
I wonder about the conversations between the Israelites on the banks of that river as they camped there for three days. Did they sound anything like the ones in my head when I can’t figure out God’s plan?
Well, this must not be what God has for us. There is no way we can cross this river. Here we go again, more desert wandering. Perhaps we just aren’t meant to ever enter this promise land. Perhaps the promise land doesn’t even exist. Maybe our forefathers misunderstood God. This is definitely not the way to go.
Yeah. We’ve all been there. Camped on the edge of a rushing river re- thinking God’s promises to us.
Did I hear him wrong? Is this not where I should be? If God wants me to go forward then why is it so hard?
I tend to face life’s obstacles with a nervous sense of despair and uncertainty. Joshua, though, knew a little something I tend to forget. He knew that God was still there. And that would make all the difference. Joshua eyed the river, he reassured the people and then he prayed.
And this is what the Lord told Joshua to do: “Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river” (Joshua 3:8).
Excuse me? Take The ark of the covenant which contains the very presence of the Lord himself and go stand in the river?
The river is at flood stage; its rushing waters are pounding over the dry ground. Go stand there? What kind of plan is that?
“And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord — the Lord of all the earth — set foot in the Jordan, its waters… will be cut off and stand in a heap,” Joshua goes on to explain (Jos. 3:13).
As soon as you step in, the Lord will stop the torrent of water and you will pass through on dry ground. The new land is yours, as soon as you step into the next thing; as soon as you step into those dangerous waters. The Lord — the Lord of all the earth — will go before you. But you have to step in.
It is an astounding thought.
My hunch is that your new thing, whatever it may be, is a little more complicated than the trying of a new sport. Perhaps it is a new job, a new marriage, a new life season, a new calling; they can all seem daunting. Maybe you have no idea what your new thing could possibly be or maybe you’ve been staring across the rapidly moving water at it for generations.
I don’t know how close to the river you are today. But I do know this. He’s right there with you. And he’s whispering these words that he poured over Joshua and the Israelites, “Be strong and courageous… for the Lord you God will go with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
The Lord of all the earth is with you and he will lead you, if you let him. Seek him. Don’t let the pounding river freeze you in fear. Seek the Lord. And then? If he tells you to, step in.
And slowly I hear God say it to my fearful heart. The waters didn’t part until their feet hit the waves. The answers won’t come while you cower on the sidelines. Eyes on me, listen to my words and then, you, you step in and watch me bring glory to my name.
“The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all of Israel passed by … crossing on dry ground” (Joshua 3:17 emphasis mine).
He goes first. The Lord our God, goes first, right into the mighty waters of the Jordan River. Our God steps in with us.
And thousands of years later, He would do it again. He would wade right into the sea of humanity as a tiny baby in manger. And he would part the waters of sin so that we could see him clearly. And then, he would bid us to come and follow him.
So, go on. Step into the water, and keep holding onto to him.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).