Have you ever tried standing still in the middle of a river while the water runs by? Or what about just standing still on the shore of a lake/ocean? It isn’t necessarily easy. Sometimes the riverbed is slick. Sometimes the shore line is rocky and rough. Sometimes its squishy and hard to keep your balance. It takes work to stand still in an unknown environment. It takes focus and is a whole body effort.
Lately life has felt a lot like I’m standing at the edge of a riverbed and trying to keep my balance. I am reminded by a trip we took last fall over to a local state park. I remember so clearly the difficulty Kylie and Lexi had just standing on the rocks while a couple of inches of water flowed over their feet and past them while they tried to navigate the slick rock.
The picture is sweet, but what it doesn’t capture is the slip and fall into just enough water and sludge to get yucky that immediately followed! I was glad that I had kept my shoes on and stayed on dry ground.
So why am I pondering and painting about standing on the edge of the river bank and waiting for the water to recede? Because that is the promise I am taking and firmly planting myself on in order to figure out how to “do” life right now. You see, years ago I had the privilege of hearing my husband Doug preach over Joshua 3 which is about the crossing of the Jordan river with the Ark of the Covenant, and his thoughts and my processing over the last few years give me hope and peace in the midst of chaos.
Read Joshua 3:14-17
So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho. And 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 Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan. Joshua 3: 14-17 NASB
I know. Its wordy and full of commas, but it speaks to me.
Can’t you see it? Can’t you feel it?
I’m such a visual person that I can’t help but recreate the scene in my head. The Jordan river is at flood stage. The waters are rushing and the people know that they have to cross the river. Man, my pulse starts picking up just thinking about it. I picture myself as one of the priests, holding one of the poles to the ark on my shoulder. It works well.. responsibility, peer pressure, expectations..
(I found the painting below labeled for reuse.. feel free to picture yourself as one of the other 3!)
So, anyway. We arrive at the edge of the Jordan. We know that God has foretold that once we step into the water, the river will recede with the water dividing and piling up above us and below us, on the sea side being cut off and not able to flow back in. But we have to take that step. Can’t you imagine it? The river is at flood stage! The water is flowing and not only do you have to take a step into the river, but you are carrying a large and heavy burden.
But isn’t that what life is like?
While I don’t really remember the particulars from Doug’s sermon years ago, and I’ll admit that my takeaway from it might be incredibly flawed. The one thing that really stood out to me that I have pondered and considered is the idea of stepping into the water and standing still while the water recedes. I have thought about it over and over. Maybe my interpretation is wrong, but I needed the image of having to step in and hold my ground while the chaos of the running water around me receded.
Life isn’t easy and anyone that says it is, is lying and somedays I need to be reminded that while I don’t have to trudge THROUGH the water, I do have to take that first step INTO the water.
Cause really, in my mind, I see the priests holding the Ark of the Covenant just a step into the water holding firm and steady while the water rushes between their legs and runs towards the Dead Sea. Can’t you just imagine the panic that was rising in those priests before the water started visibly receding. But they stood there and the water receded and Joshua 3:17 says that all of Israel crossed on dry land.
And so for me, as I stand in the water.. maybe just an inch deep, or maybe it is up to my ankles.. or even my knees.. I am reminded to stand and let the chaos around me recede instead of trying to push through and make a path. That isn’t my natural inclination. I’m all about taking up my machete and forging my own path.
But I don’t have to.
Sometimes being a leader is forging the path and sometimes being a leader is taking the first step and then holding still so that others can cross on dry ground.
And that is what my watercolor painting is of at the top of this post. I’ve learned how to make a path. Now I’m learning to stand and wait.