When we take time to look back, we can see all the ways our life journeys have shaped us into who we are today. WOW! When we look forward, we can see all the places we know we need to or want to go in our journey onward. YIKES! And then there is the in-between place. Although nothing enormous may be going on here, in-between places can feel a little like “lost”. It’s that place where we know everything should be “ok”, but we cannot shake a loneliness in our soul. These are places that we often want to just get through, but we can’t quite see the way forward. Although the place seems void of purpose and dark in its lack of connection, there seems a holiness to its gravity that beckons us to linger in the lost and listen for a voice that may ultimately beckon from the deep.
This is not a new place, rather it is rooted in the sacred. It is part of Joshua’s story. In it, he has replaced Moses as the leader of God’s people who have wandered the wilderness for 40 years. Coming up on the edge of the Promised Land, God tells Joshua that He Himself will lead His people into the land flowing with milk and honey, He will deliver the city. As God is giving Joshua this pep talk, He tells him over and over, “Do not be afraid,” “be strong, be courageous,” and this makes me pause. After God’s promising to hand-deliver all the goodness of the promise land, why is there such emphasis on Joshua being strong? If God is going to do the work of taking down a city, then why worry about strength? Interesting…
It goes on. God says to Joshua that it is time to cross the Jordan River. He tells him exactly how this is going to happen. God is going to part the waters like He had done with Moses and the Red Sea. A new generation who had only heard about the parting of the waters would get to see it with their own eyes. So, Joshua and the 40,000 cross the Jordan River on not-even-soggy but totally DRY ground. They build a memorial so that these people will remember and be able to tell their children how God delivered them through the years and across this river.
Picture Joshua sitting on the banks of the Jordan. To the left a stone memorial reminding Joshua of all he had seen God do. He was the one who sat outside the tent while Moses and God talked like friends. He had watched the Manna fall from heaven, followed the cloud by day and the fire by night. Then, just 1.25 miles away, Jericho looms with its seemingly impenetrable walls. YIKES! And in this in-between place, on the edge of the river – the MANNA ceases. They are so close to the Promise Land that they don’t need it anymore. Imagine 40,000 people remembering how to cook with not so many grandparents alive who remember doing it themselves. On the one hand, it really is so cool the way God does His thing. On the other hand, it isn’t like it used to be.
This is the place where we all land in our lives, and not only once. It is the in-between place where we know God has been with us and will continue to be with us, but it feels different. The walls of need or worry loom big just ahead. We know we should pray and trust, but the old way of eating the MANNA of daily devotion is not feeding us. It can feel dark and lonely, like a sudden disconnect from our senses and though our eyes still work, they are having a hard time adjusting to know the way forward. Our minds tell us we need “to figure this out.” We label it depression. We try to “get through” this in-between place, and fast.
That is how I imagine Joshua sitting there beside the Jordan River. And it is in this very place that a stranger appears. Joshua looks up and asks, ‘Are you friend or enemy?’ And the stranger says, “Neither. I am commander of the Lord’s army.” Joshua immediately bows low. And the commander of the Lord’s army says, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place you are standing is holy.’
And so, while every ounce of our body, mind and soul wants to get out of the in-between place, worry about the changes, fret over what is ahead, think about 1,000 other things than the loneliness that we feel, the God who knows you and has led you to this very place is whispering to you… Dear One, I am here. I am at work in you. And this is holy ground.
Maybe the reason God reminded Joshua to be strong and to have courage was because the temptation for all of us is to FLEE the dark and in-between places, to fix, to go, to do. It takes enormous courage NOT to fear the darkness of learning a new way to grow spiritually. Maybe going to church on Sundays has been your way, well starting to read a daily devotion will take enormous strength. Maybe attending a bible study for years has been your way, well staying home to simply sit with Jesus will require enormous courage. It will look different to all of us, but this in-between/barefoot place is an opportunity to sit a spell. It is a time to let the eyes of the heart adjust to a new way of seeing. It is a place to let your mind rest, because He has a plan for the walls of your Jericho and just beyond that is the Promised Land.
It turns out the in-between place is a sacred space. So, maybe we should linger here. Barefoot and unafraid.