2012: My Joshua year of fearing not and trusting God
In February of 2012, my husband of 20-plus years and I decided to part ways. We were unusual, I think, in that we came to the decision mutually and went through the process amicably. But changes were necessarily on the horizon for myself and my three adolescent children.
Having established a new home with my kids, I found myself, as the saying goes, “building the plane while I was flying it.” I was now the bread winner, the janitor, the handyman, the taxi driver, the chef, the counselor, the cheerleader, the planner, the animal wrangler, the nice parent and the mean parent. Nothing in my life had prepared me for this.
So, I had a discussion with God. He responded by saying, “Be not afraid, I am with you.”
When Joshua ben Nun was told that he was going to lead the people of Israel after Moses’ death, I bet he had the same kind of chat with the Holy One. God selected Joshua, not because he was the biggest or the brightest or most obvious. Joshua was chosen to lead his people because God knew he could do it.
Years before, when the community had been tested, Joshua had emerged as a person with a deep and abiding faith. The reward for that now, apparently, was being in charge of an entire nation of people who had been wandering-without-arriving for 40 years and had a tendency to complain.
Joshua was charged with taking his community from the “the wilderness” to “the promised land.” Now on the surface, that seems like a pretty sensible and easy thing to do. After all, if you have to settle somewhere, “the promised land” sounds like way better real estate than “the wilderness.” But there was a river in the way--the sea of reeds--and on the other side, well, the first big city in “the promised land” was already occupied by people who, let’s just say, weren’t masters of the ministry of welcome.
Joshua evidently took his concerns to God. Seven times over the course of the story of Joshua’s early leadership, God said to him, “Fear not, for I am with you.”
So, now there is the river crossing. Joshua and his followers no doubt had heard how the last river crossing went across the Red Sea--walls of water held back by the invisible hand of God, and then, splash, an entire Roman legion swept under the waves.
But “be not afraid, I am with you.” So, Joshua and his crew went for it.
Now, this crossing was not quite as easy as the last one. The first one, we are told, they walked on dry land, sandals not even getting wet, from slavery to freedom. This time, the walking was harder. Up to their hips in mud, it seems. God was still with them, just not as attentive to their footwear. At that point you can almost hear Joshua saying to the families in his wake, “Be not afraid, God is with us!”
And then, when they arrived on the other shore, there was the walled city of Jericho to be laid siege to and won. But by the end of his story, Joshua had proven himself to be equal to the tasks that God has set before him. While he wasn’t always a stellar leader, he was, as God knew he would be, the right leader at the right time. After all, his people were in the land that God promised them. They were able to overcome forces that challenged them. They were united, faithful, and blessed. By any measure, that is a success.
So, when I found myself, gob-smacked by the enormity of my mission, doubting my ability to do it and wondering how all this had come to pass, God answered me as God had answered Joshua: “Fear not, I am with you.”
And so we journeyed forward, my little tribe and I. We walked away from the years that we wandered around and around, looking for the land of milk and honey. We walked away from the lives we were living “in the wilderness.” And we walked toward a land God promised us would be “ours” in a new and marvelous way.
There were hard times. We slogged through deep emotional mud. We nearly slipped below the surface of solvency. We dragged and pulled one another along through disappointments, losses, changes and growing pains. But we were never afraid. And when we arrived on the other side of the river, and we had come home to the promised land, we knew that God was with us.
And then there were battles. My children were stereotyped and penalized because they came from “a broken home.” My entire career was nearly destroyed by antiquated cultural bias. Our culture still judges families that don’t meet a specific, Norman Rockwell, 75-years-ago image of domestic bliss. But we were not ever afraid. Because God was with us.
As a single mom, a professional and the leader of my tribe, I had good days and bad days. But I was the leader that God knew I would be. And my children are perfect. Change challenged us, but we grew together, we grew stronger, we grew to trust each other and God, and, most importantly of all, we are not afraid of change.
Because God is with us.
The Rev. Shay Craig is the Vicar of St. Michael’s and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Churches in Hays.