Like you I am a bit giddy at the prospect of beginning again. I look forward to the freshness and possibilities that the New Year offers. There is something about being given a clean slate…a do-over or “reboot” in our lives.
Unlike many of you I’ve not yet set any goals. Much of what is rumbling around in my head is still too indistinguishable to put on paper. And, yet, I am anxious to leave some things behind and move on. Part of my problem is…I’ve never been this way before. And that is what makes it so exciting…and so scary.
In such a place the Israelites found themselves. After forty years of desert wanderings the Israelites finally stared, from the other side of a small river, at the Promised Land. How giddy (and relieved) they must have felt to say good-bye to the harsh realities of desert living and take hold of this exciting and new beginning, with all its possibilities of a different way of living and experiencing life. The hopeful fulfillment of this promise consumed their hearts and propelled them on their journey for forty long years. And now they could see it and almost touch it.
Yet, they were instructed to wait three days (v. 1,2) before crossing over. Three days they lived with the seemingly endless tension of seeing but not entering the land. They must have felt like we do at times that any movement is better than no movement at all. The temptation to move out on their own must have been strong. So why the wait?
“When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites, who are carrying it, you are to move out from your positions, and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. Joshua 3:3-4.
In the waiting, rather than charging impulsively to make something happen, they recalibrated their hearts to follow.
They were instructed to wait for God to go first; to lead the way. The essence of the Christian life is not so much that it’s up to us to figure out where we are going (for what then is the need for faith?) but to live attentively and responsively, in the moment, to the creative, on-going, sometimes maddening movements and leading of God in our lives…knowing that in doing so we will experience life far beyond what we could ever dream or create on our own.
What the Israelites would soon discover…the Promised Land is not a place (or a position, or a title, or state of well-being)…it’s a Presence. A Presence who promises to go ahead of us; to lead us, and live in the muddle of life with us.
So, here are the underpinning of my journey this year: To follow God, with abandon, into an unknown place (as scary as it may feel); to trust the direction I am headed leads to the place I really need to be; to put aside my need to construct the “promise” according to my expectations; to continually be reminded that God is good and life-giving in all His ways.