A life in transition — crossing the Jordan River with Joshua

Joshua 3-4
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deerintheroad

We know what this feels like.

This past week, my wife and I moved from a decrepit apartment unit to a renovated one in the same complex. The difference was staggering, as you might imagine: new carpet, new tile, freshly painted walls, and an orientation that welcomed much more sunlight. We love it.

But the baby and the cats had a different opinion. Taryn became agitated because the new environment seemed unfamiliar — even though the apartment layout and the furniture orientation is exactly the same –and the cats hissed at each other for two days as if they’d just met.

Even with such a simple move, however, it’s been moderately stressful for us too, and although I am grateful for the newness of everything, I have occasionally questioned if it was all worth it. I tend to find small things to worry about and analyze them outside of the context of reality, which make things a lot worse than they actually seem.

Transition is always strange. Some of you will be graduating from high school or college soon, or getting married, or moving into your first house, or starting a new job in a different city.  Sometimes it’s negative: a death of a friend or relative, a breakup, or a financial falling-out also qualify as major change. Regardless, it’s awkward stuff, even for some of the most seasoned individuals.

If you’re experiencing transition in your life, keep reading.

The situation

It’s time for Joshua to move. With just about a million people behind him, waiting for some revelation from God, Joshua is under the gun, and he has to act. More specifically, he has to start moving right away, or they might be questioning his leadership skills.  He’s no Moses.

But hold up, Joshie, God says. You can’t just run off and play in the river — you have some rules to follow, buddy.

God’s presence first

The Levites, God’s people that were set apart for His work, are asked to go ahead with the ark of the covenant and stand in the Jordan River.  The ark is symbolic of God’s presence; this vessel is to go ahead of the people (2/3 of a mile away, in fact). The people, in turn, are to stay put for now.

A practical thing to do before any transition: pray. It doesn’t have to be ceremonial or flowery.  Ask for God to prepare you for His work, wherever you might be going.  While His omniscience means He’s already physically “there”, we should be relationally cognizant of His established presence. It’s like checking see if the TGIFriday’s is still in business before driving to Pleasanton. That’s just an example. I wouldn’t know from personal experience.

All in

Poker makes me really nervous, which is why I’m horrible at it.  When someone goes “all in”, it means it’s do or die.  You’re either going to win the hand and keep playing, or you’re out for good.

Joshua is about to go all in. He’s going to cross a river into a land that Israel hasn’t seen for several generations. While most of the Israelites are likely on board, I bet many of them were still reluctant, because they’re trespassing into the unknown. However, it’s worth noting that the entire nation of Israel crossed the river.  No one was left behind. What if some of them had stayed? There’d be division and lasting ramifications; everyone needed to go.

The unknown is always terrifying. But if we make a decision, it’s important to follow through with it, and that we don’t “go back”. Solomon writes that it’s like a dog returning to its vomit; Jesus relates it to pushing a plow and looking back, or building something without counting the cost and not finishing it. Especially if you’re confident that what you’re doing is to glorify God, don’t paint what-if scenarios in your head.  Go all in.

Establishing a memorial

I have ex-girlfriends, ex-jobs, and ex-churches. Some aspects of those things are wonderful, but others are quite forgettable. Remembering where I came from might evoke nostalgia at times, but it can also produce painful memories of bruises and scars from experiences I never wanted.

But here I am, still alive and still fighting. The humanist might chalk it up to a series of coincidences I’ve dealt with and mentally acclimated to, but I see it as a a merciful God using these experiences to shape me, as a cook might blend and chop and beat the ingredients to prepare them for a greater purpose.

After Joshua leads the nation across the Jordan River, he tells some of the leaders to set up a memorial, to help them remember how God got them across the river (which was miraculous in itself), and to remind them of His great mercy. God could have hit the reset button again, but He let them move forward despite their history of obstinate attitudes.

I’m not asking of us to grab a pile of stones and set them up in our former place of employment a la Blair Witch Project style, but don’t forget what God has carried you through, and that, if we remain aligned to serve Him with our whole hearts, He will continue to do so, despite what state we’re in. Build a memorial in your mind and heart, and remember what He’s done and what He’ll do.

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This song is striking to me.  Few musicians are able to convey emotions and experiences as articulately and melodically as Matt Thiessen of Relient K. Matt experienced a rough broken engagement not long before releasing this album. Listen to this song about transition, if you have a few minutes.


 

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