Monday, July 23, 2012

Lessons from Joshua, Part III: Okay, We're Here... Now What?

The last two posts looked at various scenes from the life of Joshua.  There is one more  “scene” involving Joshua I would like to consider, but I should say up front that this one comes not from the Bible but from the imagination of Alan—a fascinating place to visit to be sure but not considered part of the canonical Scriptures. J That said:

I wonder how Joshua felt several weeks after crossing the Jordan?

If he is like me, then I imagine he felt excited but also a little overwhelmed. He had been waiting to “cross over” for maybe twenty years and now it finally happened. So much of Joshua’s time and energy in recent days went into preparing his people to “cross over” and then the overseeing the crossing of the Jordan. He probably felt a little tired after living through it all.  If he did, then Laurie and I can empathize.

Moving is one of the more stressful and tiring activities that anyone can do.  There’s packing up all the boxes in preparation for the move… then there’s “crossing over”—the actual move to the new place… and then there’s settling in, unpacking the boxes, and “taking possession”—starting to make your new house your home.  That last piece can take quite a while as you get to know a whole new community and the people in our—large—church.  It’s really quite draining to take it all in—physically, mentally, even spiritually—especially for an introvert like me.
Perhaps this view of the Jordan is similar
to what greeted Joshua that morning.

Anyway, back to Joshua…  I have this image of him waking up one morning with the miraculous crossing of the Jordan now several weeks in the rearview mirror, and with Jericho and other epic battles and conquests that we associate with Joshua still waiting for him in the future.  He stands at the entrance of his tent, the Sun rising over the verdant hills of Canaan, the cool breeze of morning rippling the flap at the entrance.  He feels so excited to finally be here. It feels so good to finally be in the land of the Promise.  He can’t wait to see what God has for his People in this place.  

The place pulses with palpable potential.

But then the enormity of it all hits him… Joshua looks around and sees the veritable portable city that surrounds him.  Tents and other structures stretch as far as the eye can see.  Twelve tribes—comprising thousands of men, women, and children—have followed him on this journey with a goal of “taking possession” of the land God has given them.  For now though, they are crammed on the shore of the Jordan awaiting instruction on what to do next. (Remember, this is occupied territory!)  As Joshua gazes around, he is suddenly struck by a thought that overwhelms him. 

Dear God!  All these people are looking to me to guide them!  I don’t even know their names.  How am I’m supposed to lead them effectively?!

Then I imagine him looking skyward and saying something like: “Okay God, we’re here.  Now what do we do next?”

And God did answer—not all at once, but faithfully day-by-day. Each day, Joshua every had to trust God to show him what’s next, so that he, in turn, could provide guidance and leadership to God’s people.  God showed Joshua what he needed for each moment he faced—provided each day his daily bread.

I probably can imagine that scene right now, because, frankly, I feel as if I am living a modern version of it.  Like Joshua, I am several weeks into a new reality.  My family is settling into a new home in Waldorf, getting to know the lay of the land in a new community, and beginning to find our way in a new—and significantly larger—church.

Not unlike Canaan, our new church pulses with energy and vitality—the place pulses with palpable potential.  We sense it and so do many of the people we’ve met so far.   In many ways, the church is quite a bit different from the churches we previously served.  That alone takes some getting used to.  We’ve joined an ongoing story at Good Shepherd and we’re starting to learn it and figure out where our gifts and graces fit in—all in due time. 

I think my wife probably relates to this imagined scene from the life of Joshua right now even more than me.  You see, she’s the pastor—I’m the writer and the ruminator in the family J.  That means that in our new setting, she is “Joshua.”  She’s the one to whom the people of our church are already looking to set the tone and reassure them that all shall be well in this new day.  Ultimately she must answer their anxious question: “Okay, you’re here.  Now what do we do next?”  It’s a pretty awesome privilege and a huge responsibility that God gives to a pastor, and—speaking as the spouse of a pastor who only experiences the phenomenon second-hand—it can feel more than a little overwhelming at times to take it all in. 

As was true with Joshua, we trust God will continue to equip Laurie, day-by-day, to fulfill her new role as pastor of Good Shepherd.  We likewise trust God to equip me, her spouse, to both support her and live out my own calling in this place, and to help our whole family continue to adjust to our new reality.

The congregation of Good Shepherd naturally looks to Laurie, their newly appointed pastor and shepherd, to lead them into the next chapter of their story, but ultimately, what we all really want is to do as Joshua did—trust God to go with us and guide us into this new place pulsing with promise and potential. 

We will do our best to release some of the stored potential of this place, to set in motion God’s energies in our church, our community, and our world. As we do so, we hope to see God’s Kingdom become just a little more visible on Earth as it is in heaven. 

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