Getting Your Feet Wet
By Amy Watson Smith, Department of Christian Faith Formation, Diocese of SC
I can still see my daughter’s face as she came down the slide that Saturday morning. She was a kindergartner attending a classmate’s birthday party where the primary entertainment was one of those enormous, inflatable slides. It was intended to be fun, I am sure, but my cautious child wasn’t going to be so easily convinced. After some coaxing and gentle threats, she finally made her way to the top of the slide. As she pushed off from the landing, a look came over her face that I will never forget. As other children whizzed past her, arms in air, screaming with delight, my daughter had a look of terror hiding just beneath her plastered-on smile. With hands and feet dragging along the rubberized material, slowing her descent, she bumped along eyes darting back and forth desperately looking for something to help her feel more secure. As she reached the bottom, she let out a huge sigh of relief, and, looking around at her friends, she shook her head in apparent disbelief. She wasn’t going through that again!
I hate to admit just how much my own spiritual journey resembles my daughter’s experience of that slide. I have “dug my heels in” on more than one occasion and have resisted the Lord’s call to trust Him far too often. The idea of surrender is almost incomprehensible to me. But praise God! He shows us a way to learn how to trust Him and to surrender—through His word, through the experiences of those who have come before us, and through our own journeys with Him.
What comes to mind when I think about my resistance to trusting God is the contrast of the faithfulness of Joshua and the Israelites as they approach the Jordan River. The Lord tells Joshua over and over to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1: 9). I don’t know about you, but anytime anyone tells me not to be afraid, it is usually because there is something that I should be afraid of! God did not promise Joshua and the Israelites a trouble-free life in the Promised Land. No, but He did promise that he would be with them wherever they went.
What really gets me about this passage is that he doesn’t show them the way across the Jordan first (which is running at flood stage at this point, by the way). He doesn’t stop the flow of the river and then say “Come on over.” No, he tells the priests to go and stand in the river. As soon as they set foot in it, the water starts piling up on either side and the Israelites are able to cross over to the new land that the Lord has given them. God called them to surrender their place of safety on one side of the river and to trust Him to make a way for them across it to the other side—to the Promised Land. He asks us to do the same: surrender this place of safety and trust me to get you to this new place.
I can definitely relate with what the Israelites must have been feeling that day. My place of safety is really feeling pretty comfortable right now—I finally feel like I kind of know what I am doing, good things are happening, things are running pretty smoothly…you know the feeling. But the Lord has called me to cross through the Jordan—and believe me! The river is running at flood stage. There seems to be a lot at stake and the journey across the raging waters looks pretty risky. And to top that all off, I don’t even know what is on the other side! But what I do know is that it is good for the Lord has called me to it. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Joshua could take the risk of surrendering his place of safety because he had seen what the Lord had done through Moses. I too can trust because of what God has promised in His word and because of what I have seen the Lord do through me and so many others.
You know, it’s funny. I thought that my daughter would never go back up that big, inflatable slide that Saturday morning, but she did! She was able to talk herself into taking a risk because of her previous experience and that of her classmates. The second time down, she didn’t dig in her heels as much and the ride was a bit smoother. By the end of the party, she was throwing her hands up in the air and screaming with abandon with the best of them!
Is the Lord calling you to a place of surrender? Does he ask you to leave your place of safety and step into the river? Go ahead—get your toes wet! He is trustworthy. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5) Thanks be to God!