Crossing the River

So, here’s a fun little story. I’ve had a lot of pent up aggression from recent circumstances (not related to the Don Holt Bridge this time) and it’s good to finally be writing it all down. I continue to be amazed at the lessons learned and growth opportunities that present themselves when I make the decision to step into the unknown. When I make that conscious decision to say “yes” to an open-ended, potentially life altering question, my mental, emotional, and spiritual status quo continues to be challenged. Here’s what I mean:

One of my most recent blog posts mentioned one of my favorite stories ever told: the story of Joshua leading his people across the Jordan river some 5,000 years ago to go after what they were called for. They decided to respond not in fear but in faith and with a clear plan. But my interest in the story doesn’t stop there. With where Joy and I have been in the past few weeks, my perspective on this story has expanded slightly.

Recently we accepted our first full time foster placement, which has brought on new challenges given the unique circumstances of the case. I won’t and can’t go into detail here but suffice it to say that we have been struggling with feelings of self doubt and a desire to turn back. The voices in our heads have been telling both of us “who do you think you are to parent these kids? You’re obviously not well prepared for this. They’d be better off elsewhere.” But I am so grateful for what I’ve learned through it all and am about to share here.

Over a year and a half ago we decided to begin this journey and cross our proverbial river. Since then we have been building our faith and praying for community. We have been making plans on parenting strategies and forming household systems to make sure things run smoothly no matter who we might welcome into our home. But sometimes all of that preparation seems like it’s for naught and what do you do then? What in the world do you do when the plan gives out on you and there is no plan b? How should we respond when we take that first step in our own river crossing but then we’re standing in a rip current waiting for our faith to come through and wondering if we’ve made a mistake? That’s where we have been.

We moved down to the great state of South Carolina in 2011 and have wanted to build community ever since. That first summer was great as we grilled by the pool but when the days grew shorter, we quickly felt isolated and alone. We struggled to build friendships and community at first, and it has been our prayer ever since. God has delivered on this prayer in big ways in the past few years and never more so than in these past few weeks, but it required us to first step into the river. This is exactly how the story played out for Joshua too in Chapter 3, verse 15:

It was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, the water above that point began backing up a great distance away at a town called Adam, which is near Zarethan. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the town of Jericho.

So this wasn’t a small babbling brook that they could hop over. It wasn’t a slow moving lazy river where they could float on inner tubes and enjoy a cold one. It was a wide, overflowing, fast moving river that they needed to cross in order to do what God called them to do. The lucky dudes who drew the short straw and went in first had to stand in this river and have faith that God would come through. Before God did anything though he required them to take the first step. I wonder what these guys were thinking as they stood there waiting for the river to dry up. Were they worried that it would sweep them away? Were they looking back at Joshua wondering when he would say “Ok, never mind guys! It was worth a shot but let’s head back to the desert!” If they didn’t then they were better people than I because I’ve had those thoughts nearly every time I do something based on faith. I’m just a cynical person by nature with a short term memory for all the ways God has come through in the past, so it doesn’t surprise me. I laugh at myself nonetheless though.

So here’s our brief river crossing story: We decided that we would stay part-time foster parents until Joy was done with her Masters’ program in February of 2017. It just made sense to us in our logical, cautious, plan-oriented brains. But then we heard of a need that we felt called to fill and our nice, neat plan was turned upside down. As we waded into the overflowing, fast flowing river we hoped that God would come through on our prayers for community and support. Since then we have received more clothes than our two new kiddos could ever wear in a year. We received more toys than they could ever play with in a lifetime. While we have been pushing for certain benefits for the kiddos, we’ve had great families come alongside us and help with babysitting, we’ve had encouragement and advice pour in every time we truly needed it, and we’ve even had a free set of family photos taken. So ya, I’d say our faith has been fulfilled. It didn’t all happen instantaneously, and in the busy-ness of everything that has had to get done, I sometimes overlooked it, which is what I always struggle with. But it happened when we truly needed it to. Our hearts have been so tired yet so full from the roller coaster ride of a new full time placement and it’s been an emotionally confusing few weeks. But it’s also been an enlightening time which I hope can encourage someone who reads this and is considering their own river crossing. I’d like to encourage you not to turn back or waver. It’s only when we decide to say yes; to wade into that overwhelming river current and wait on God that we experience the power of community and the promise of God. It’s in these moments when we are able to speak life into an otherwise dying situation that we witness the life giving power of a loving Father. Saying “yes” is how we choose to Love.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Say yes. We are all called to serve and love those around us. It’s one of those non-negotiable items in Christianity. In many of the needs around us, lives are quite literally on the line. If you don’t say yes and save a life, who will?
  2. Stand in the river. Don’t waver while waiting for God to make good on your faith. In the above story, God didn’t deliver results until the first dudes took a step of faith into the river. If you feel called to do something and step into your unknown, go step in that river. The question to ask yourself is not should I do it, it’s how do I do it. As I said in a previous post, build your faith, make a plan, and then go do it.
  3. Lean on your community. We have experienced the love and support of such a generous and self-sacrificing group of people who have been eager to completely fill the needs we have. This wouldn’t have happened unless we spoke up. We have learned that the largest part of building community is to ask for help when needed, and be eager to provide help when asked.

Say yes. Stand in the river. Lean on your community.

And of course, in all things choose Love.

 

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